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Dublin: 12°C Monday 23 May 2022

'Put him in the sling and start walking': 7 practical tips for surviving the dreaded colic, from real parents

Sheena McGinley scouts out some advice for dealing with a newborn who Just Won’t Stop Crying.

Image: Shutterstock

HATS OFF TO anyone who has endured the relentlessness of a colicky baby.

It happened to me with baby number two. Just as I was getting used to being a parent of two, and furiously congratulating myself for having yet another good-natured baby, the wailing started.

It was like clockwork. The mooching would start around 2.30pm, followed by fussing, and then all-out caterwauling from 3pm until about 2am. This happened every day for the following two months.

We nearly lost our minds.

The district nurse was clear. “If it’s colic, there’s not much you can do about it apart from comfort her. She’ll grow out of it.” 

Colic is the term used for “excessive and frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy.” In other words, crying for no reason.

Yes, my caterwauler did grow out of it eventually, and like most parents I found the odd trick that worked to ease the screams along the way.

In my experience, for example, colicky babies like being snuggled and swayed, particularly belly-down lying along your forearm. Bathing your baby can help with relaxation, and baths kill a bit of time. Gentle belly rubs can help too.

If you’re dealing with colic in your house, here are seven other pieces of practical advice (direct from myself and from the parents’ WhatsApp group) that may help…

shutterstock_761251168 Source: Shutterstock

1. Find a routine

“My mum had an awful time with one of us and she used to advise to feed, wind, change, repeat. And if you really start to lose it, put the baby in the cot and get yourself outside to calm down.”

- Mary

2. Try swaddling

“Méabh cried and cried and we used to swaddle her close, then quickly swing her from left to right. She stopped… sometimes! We also put her in a sling and walked for hours. I’m a firm believer in the Fourth Trimester.” 

- Marcus

3. Car journeys, if you’re really stuck

“We’ve only just come through it. My husband resorted to driving as far Arklow a few months ago, in an effort to soothe the crying baby in the back of the car. Time is the only thing.” 

- Sarah

4. Break bad sleeping habits

“If they wake up around the same time every night, it’s a habit, and if it’s a habit, it can probably be broken. Calum used to wake at 1am for no reason, bawling. As outlined in The Baby Whisperer, about ten minutes before the normal wake up time, just move them a little so the sleep pattern is disturbed. Don’t wake them completely. Do it for three nights. By night four, it should stop. It worked for us, anyway! I couldn’t believe it.”

- Stef

shutterstock_307435160 Source: Shutterstock

5. Accept that there may be no easy solution

“Unless there is actually something wrong, like hunger or reflux etc, I don’t think there is anything you can do to actually stop the crying. So, it’s just about getting through it the best you can without getting too frazzled. I’ve bought swaddles, tummy drops, gripe water, done baby yoga etc, and the ONLY thing that worked for me was time.”

- Claire

6. Give yourself space to breathe/scream

“Step outside for a bit and breathe deeply, taking in all the oxygen you can! OR step outside for a few minutes and scream out all the CO2 into the dark void of the night.”

- Helen

7. And finally, rule out reflux if you haven’t already

For the blissfully unaware, reflux is when a baby’s feed moves back into the oesophagus, usually when they’re lying down.

If you suspect your baby’s unexplained crying could be caused by reflux, the following tips may help (or they’ll at least help you to rule out reflux if they don’t work)…

- Feed your baby held in an elevated position and, preferably, keep them upright for another 30 minutes afterwards.

- Always burp baby a few times mid-feed. While it’s tempting to just let them have at it, especially if they’ve latched on well and you’re getting a crying reprieve, it’s pretty heartbreaking to see it all fly back up again. There’s more chance of that happening if they guzzle it in one go.

- It’s not always possible to feed your baby the second they start fussing. If you end up having to wait, bear in mind you may need to burp your baby more frequently throughout, as air is often swallowed while crying.

- If formula feeding, don’t be tempted to switch from the one you’ve been using to another “more suitable” one without having a chat with either a district nurse, a pharmacist, or a member of your chosen brand’s ‘helpline team’. Switching or mixing different strengths of formula willy nilly can cause constipation (for baby) and further discomfort (for everyone).

- Over the counter remedies such as gripe water, Chamomilla, and colic drops don’t always work, but they may help alleviate the relentlessness momentarily – and you’ll at least feel more proactive in your plight.

So, that’s it. Waiting for baby to grow out of this trying stage, while not snapping in the process, seems to be the only certainty when it comes to incessant crying. But if you find something that works along the way, grasp it tightly and don’t let go.

Did you try something that worked with your colicky or reflux-y baby? If so, please share below!

About the author:

Sheena McGinley

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