Nutritionist Emma Sutherland spent hours nursing her screaming newborn Sophia before she realised she was suffering from colic. Here Emma shares her personal tips on how to cope.
When my daughter Sophia was born she was just beautiful, but from the age of four weeks old she would scream for at least an hour after every single feed. No matter what I did, nothing helped to ease her pain. I was working with a lactation consultant at the time because we had breastfeeding troubles, and she suggested Sophia may have silent reflux or colic. During that time I felt beside myself – I have never felt more despair or helpless in my life. As a parent, all you want to do is protect your child from pain and discomfort, and every day, every feed, I felt like a failure. It was a very dark time for me and we would spend hours bouncing on my fit ball, both of us crying.
Almost 25 per cent of babies worldwide suffer from colic and most often in the first four months of life. The diagnosis of colic is made when your baby is crying for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week and for more than three weeks. The symptoms can be trapped wind, a hard tummy from bloating, acute pains, exhaustion, prolonged crying and, of course, stressed-out parents!
The causes of colic are many, and include an immature digestive system, reflux, allergies, taking in too much air during feeding or crying, gas-producing foods in Mum’s diet, and overstimulation.
Every day I would massage Sophia’s tummy, sing songs, hold her, cuddle her and just be there for her. It wasn’t easy as I was so exhausted and fragile, but I was lucky enough to have a brilliant GP, which made the world of difference. What we found worked was
a combination of medication, baby-specific probiotics and seeing an osteopath.
Correct gut flora is essential to ensure a healthy immune system and I have seen many babies and children’s health improve with the addition of good bacteria, or probiotics. Research has shown that these are very effective in treating colic.
I found that gently massaging Sophia’s stomach or back by rubbing in a clockwise direction using 2-3 fingers would help to move trapped wind. Try using oil made up of two drops of fennel or chamomile essential oil and 30ml of olive oil.
Or try adding any of the following to a warm bath to provide some symptomatic relief for your baby:
• A couple of drops of lavender essential oil – this helps relax a frayed nervous system.
• Epsom salts – the magnesium helps relax tight tummies.
• A cup of fennel tea – this helps reduce abdominal gas.
If, like me, you have experienced the trauma of having a baby who suffers from colic you may be at your wit’s end. The good news is that there are solutions, things you can do and people who can help you and your little one to get over the tears.
Here are some practical tips to help you:
• See an osteopath who specialises in babies – I found this to be incredibly helpful in supporting Sophia’s digestion.
• If you are bottlefeeding ensure your baby has created a seal around the teat so she isn’t sucking in air. You will hear a slurping noise if this is the case. I used to put my fingers on her cheeks in a scissor shape hold to prevent this.
• Play CDs of ‘womb’ music or relaxing music, which is designed to soothe babies.
• Stop eating gas-forming foods and see if that eases your baby’s symptoms. These include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onion, garlic, lentils and beans.
• Swaddle your baby, hold her close and keep moving. I found that bouncing on my fit ball while holding Sophia completely upright and singing really helped.
• Dr Harvey Karp, Associate Professor of Paediatrics at UCLA School of Medicine, and author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, recommends “the five Ss” – swaddling, side/stomach holding, shushing, swinging and sucking. His theory is that babies miss the womb and to calm a crying baby it needs to feel in familiar surroundings such as rhythmic noise, motion and hypnotic sounds such as the classic ssssshhhhh noise.
• Try to get a little break for yourself, if you can. When the stress of your crying newborn builds up, a bit of ‘me time’ can help you carry on.
• Keep your nutrition up too – taking care of yourself means you’re better able to take care of your newborn.
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