I first heard of colic when I read my first baby book. It effects up to 25% of babies. I assumed I’d be one of the lucky, unaffected ones, particularly as I planned the breastfeed and I’d read that colic in breastfed babies was less common. I wasn’t. It took me a while to realise it was colic. The first time that your newborn screams for a 4 hour stretch you find it hard to believe that it’s actually perfectly normal. Once you’ve changed them, fed them and made sure they are the right temperature and they are still screaming you become convinced that there must be something seriously wrong with them. It was only once the pattern of evening crying became clear that I realised it must be colic.
Can Breastfed Babies Get Colic?
Unfortunately, while it’s considered less common, colic in Breastfed Babies definitely happens. Both of my babies were exclusively breastfed for the whole time they had colic.
How do you Solve a Problem like Colic?
I like to solve problems so I immediately began researching what I could do to help. I was horrified to find the answer was, very little. The NHS website makes a few suggestions, cuddling, warm baths, making sure they burp after a feed, but it’s the last line that tells the real story
“…there’s very little evidence these things work”.
And that’s about the size of it. For most babies, colic has settled down by 4 months. Until then, it’s likely you will have an inconsolable baby for several hours every single night. And it is hard. It’s important to admit that because, while colic is fairly common, it’s impact on parents is rarely discussed.
As a Mum your job it is to look after your baby. If you can’t stop that baby from screaming for hours at a time, it’s easy to feel like you’ve failed. You haven’t. There is no rhyme or reason to which babies get colic and which don’t. Nothing you have done as a parent has caused it. Those hours of crying can feel totally overwhelming but it isn’t your fault, you aren’t a bad parent, just an unlucky one. This can be particularly tough if you’ve just become a new mum..
Why is Colic in a Breastfed Baby Different from Colic in a Bottle fed Baby?
Essentially it’s because the go to remedies for colic are often more difficult to implement in breastfed babies.
Babies who are only used to drinking from the breast will find a syringe full of gripe water pretty unwelcome. Many remedies need to be given in a bottle which can be difficult if your breast baby, like many, won’t take a bottle.
On the subject of bottles, many suggestions for relieving colic involve changing to different bottle but for a breast baby with colic, this isn’t an options as boobs aren’t interchangeable!
Feeding baby sitting up is often suggested but again, this is difficult when you’re breastfeeding, particularly if your breasts are on the small side.
Through burping after each feed is also recommended but as breastfed babies take in less air when they feed there often isn’t that much to come up.
The Things you Can do for a Breastfed Baby with Colic
There are some suggestions for relieving colic that you will be able to try with a breastfed baby.
A warm bath can help some babies and is definitely worth a try. You can also try by cycling their their legs which is thought to help move gas along.
While you might not be able to keep them upright while feeding, you can try to keep them upright after. You can also try the different holds suggested for colic.
The bonus of breastfeeding a baby with colic is that you don’t have to worry about over feeding them in the same way as you do with bottles so if they find breastfeeding comforting you can offer it.
Parenting is Harder if your Baby has Colic
It’s ok to feel angry and frustrated by the constant crying. It isn’t a pleasant sound and listening to it for hours on end is hard, especially since you’re every instinct is telling you to make it stop. Try not to worry about what the neighbours think though. Newborn crying sounds deafening to a parent but my neighbours say they heard nothing! When I had my second, her crying never once woke her brother so, while it feels like your baby is keeping the whole street awake, it’s unlikely to be the case. In my house the only other party who was bothered by the crying was the cat. She would come and bite my ankles, presumably telling me to make it stop. I kid myself that she was concerned for the baby but I suspect in reality she just didn’t like the noise.
I was unlucky that both of my children had colic. With my son, I could sometimes soothe him briefly by feeding him, but nothing would console my daughter. She screamed every night between 5pm and 10pm. We tried all of the different holds, spent ages after each feed burping her, gave her colief and gripe water, tried warm baths and leg cycling. She just screamed and screamed and screamed until she eventually fell asleep, completely exhausted.
People Don’t See the Struggle
This made bedtime for my toddler extremely difficult, particularly on the nights I had to do it alone. He was just over two when she was born so still needed help to do most things and didn’t appreciate his sister howling through his bedtime story. It quickly became our normal and it was only when a friend came to stay and was shocked by our “normal” that I realised that life isn’t like that for all parents.
That’s the thing with colic though, other people don’t see it. It’s likely that your baby behaves perfectly normally during the day so friends and family don’t realise how much you’re struggling. That’s why it’s so important to ask for help. It’s hard to leave your crying baby with someone else but remember, they will cry whether you are there or not. If you have no help, it’s ok to put them somewhere safe and take a few minutes break. You can also call the Cry-sis helpline and talk to someone who understands.
If you have a colicky baby, breastfed or otherwise, be kind to yourself. Keep remembering, this isn’t your fault. Ask for help and accept it. Remember that colic won’t cause your baby any permanent damage. When your baby is crying and you can’t comfort them, 4 months seems like forever but this too will pass. Your early months with your baby might not be how you imagined but you will come out of the other side. Things will get better.
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Nicole - Tales from Mamaville says
Never experienced it first-hand but I’ve heard and read so much about colicky babies, respect for all parents who’ve had to deal with it. Being a new mum is frightening and exhausting enough – we don’t need colic thrown into the mix! But this was a very informative and helpful piece, thank you for sharing it with #itsok
Jo (A Rose Tinted World) says
You are so right in your saying ask for help. Sometimes when it has all got too much you need to walk away. Even putting your baby in bed and going and lying down yourself for half an hour. We had to walk E around every evening and take her in the car to get her to stop crying. But then she seemed to suddenly get over it too. It does pass, and that is also important to realise. #ThatFridayLinky
It’s so hard to see past it when you’re in the middle of it!
Tracey Carr says
I will never stop being grateful that neither of my girls had colic. Honestly it sounds terrible. This is such an informative and re-assuring article for anyone out there with a baby who is currently suffering from it. My sister is due her first in ten weeks and I hope for her sake that this doesn’t happen. But at least I have read this great post and will be armed and ready to help her if it does! Thanks Josie! #itsok
I hope your sister’s baby is colic Free! X
My first was a colicky baby, he also had reflux so feeding to soothe the colic never worked. We had shares in gaviscon, colief and infacol…NOTHING worked. We got through, just! Reading this brought back some of my feelings from that time, embarrassment and shame…I was so worried that the neighbours would hear through the walls and deem me an unfit mum! It had a massive impact on my self esteem. Thank you for sharing!
It’s awful isn’t it, I was so relieved when my neighbors said they couldn’t hear anything!
Kate - The Mum Conundrum says
All three of my babies were fairly collicky and each time it was an absolute living hell! Great post – so important that new parents have access to this sort of info xxx #itsok
I think the colic was one of the (many!) things that stopped me having a third! X
Aww I definitely feel for you, two of my three were colicky babies. Luckily it didn’t last long with either of them x
Helen Copson says
Josie this sounds awful, I’m surprised you can write about it! I remember going through the colief and gripe water etc with no success and the worst part was nobody had answers. I’m glad you survived! #ItsOK
I think the lack of understanding is one of the worst things about it, I’m Someone who needs answers!
Anita Faulkner - Brazen Mummy Writes says
This colic thing sounds dreadful. My little one had reflux/allergies/wind, but I think we dodged the colic more or less. X
I imagine reflux and allergies are pretty awful too! X