Child Care: Guidelines for Managing Colicky Babies

i. The parents are not to be blamed and their way of upbringing is not the cause for the baby’s crying. Thus they should not harbour feelings of guilt

ii. Colic has nothing to do with the type of feeding. Changing formulas or switching from breast milk to bottle feeds is not recommended. However if the baby is on cow’s milk, you may try to give the baby formula milk.

iii. The parents should take heart from the fact that it is a fairly common condition that will subside with time, their baby is otherwise healthy and that the baby has no ill-effects due to this. In fact such babies prosper a lot. So it is just a matter of time and patience.

iv. Various methods have been suggested to soothe the baby. The parents should try them and, by trial and error, find out for themselves what suits their baby the best. Rocking the baby gently in the cradle or in their laps, offering a pacifier, turning on soft music or singing a lullaby to the baby, creating a calm atmosphere around the baby with a soothing blue night light are some of the routine methods to be tried first. If the baby is still not soothed, then taking the baby out for a ride in the car sometimes work wonders. Colicky babies are usually more comfortable lying on their stomachs. Thus they may get relief by being laid with their stomach on the parent’s knees and their backs being gently massaged and rubbed. A hot water bottle may be tried (ensure the water is not too hot) that can be placed under the stomach of the baby with the baby lying stomach down on it.

v. The doctor may prescribe a sedative to the baby if the crying is too long and not being relieved. In very trying conditions, enemas or suppositories may be given to the baby whence the expulsion of gas or stool may afford relief to the baby.

vi. Picking the baby up and loving and cuddling it will not spoil the baby. The parents should do it at the first sign of distress in the baby.

vii. Finally, the parents should accept the condition in a calm and resigned way, think about it as transient that will go away with time; and half the battle is won.

Counselling of Parents

It often happens and almost all parents must have faced it sometime or the other that the baby’s crying shows no signs of stopping. It tests the nerves and the patience of the parents. In spite of your best efforts to calm her, the baby may thrash her arms, kick her legs, scream more and just refuse to be comforted. You run out of ideas and feel completely helpless. These reactions are painful to you. You feel sorry for the baby, at least in the beginning. With time, you feel increasingly inadequate, as you are unable to control her.

With some more time, when the baby rejects your efforts you cannot help but get mad at the baby. Inwardly you are irritated while outwardly you may try to console her. But there is a limit to everything including your patience and it may so happen (and it does happen often) that you blow your top and get angry with the baby, at the world and at yourself. But this doesn’t help and you realise after sometime that you had lost self-control and unnecessarily got angry with your baby. This makes you feel ashamed and guilty, which in turn may make you tenser.

What the parents should realise is that every parent gets angry at such trying times and there is no need to feel ashamed or guilty about it, as it is a normal humanly feeling. The best thing to do is to admit your feelings and laugh it out with your spouse. Laughter and a sense of humour is the best antidote for stress and tension. Besides you should realise that your baby is not doing it deliberately and that she is too small to be mad at you or to throw tantrums. If she is crying, there is always a genuine and valid reason behind it.

In the case of “infantile colic”, when the baby cries for hours on together and repeats the same routine day after day, it may bring the parents to the end of their tethers, so much so that they may feel that it is beyond their endurance power. When you feel so much exhausted, it is time that you take some rest. At least once or twice in a week, the parents should spend “quality time” together e.g. going to movies, visiting some close friend etc. Ask the help of some friend, neighbour, relative or a baby sitter to look after the baby in your absence.

The parents often hesitate doing this thinking that they are inflicting their baby on someone else and so shirking from their responsibility. But you should realise that a few hours off from your baby is very important for you to keep your sense of balance, and that it is equally important for your baby and your spouse that you do not start cracking under the mental strain and irritability. If you can’t arrange for someone to “baby sit”, then the best option is for the parents to take time off in rotation. After all, the baby doesn’t require two worried parents at a time to listen to her. Everything that helps you from getting too preoccupied and obsessed with the baby’s crying, and thus helps you in maintaining “sanity” helps you, your spouse and your baby in the long run.

BOTTOM LINE: As you get to know your baby better, you will find that you understand what his cries means more readily. In the beginning it’s mostly trial and error, but if you respond to your baby’s need quickly in these early months and do the best you can to comfort him, you will find that he discovers other, less distressing ways to communicate with you as he gets older.

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