Wednesday 22 November 2017

Endless tears from your baby? Keep the faith, it gets better

Colic in babies tests parental endurance, here's some tips to help

Colic in babies tests parental endurance
Colic in babies tests parental endurance

Dr Nina Byrnes

AS I sit writing this I'm still awaiting the arrival of my own baby, but by the time you read it a lot may have changed. Seeing as July and August will see me immersed in all things baby and we continue to have a baby boom in Ireland I thought a few weeks spent looking at baby and new mum problems might be of interest to some of you reading this column.

One thing that is sure is that when it comes to infant problems mums are inundated with advice from all sides. It can be hard to decide which advice to follow as most often there are conflicting tales and ideas.

Thankfully most children are born healthy and the first big decision parents make is whether to breast or bottle feed.

There is no doubt that breastfeeding is best for both mother and baby. The baby benefits from transferred maternal immunity to various diseases, less stomach upset, lower rates of allergies and eczema, less childhood infections , and lower rates of diabetes and obesity as adults.

The mother benefits from a lower risk of breast cancer, less cost, and less hassle (no preparing bottles) and an easier return to pre-pregnancy weight.

The main thing parents worry about initially is whether the baby is getting enough.

Breastfeeding mums often find this particularly difficult as they can't see what the baby is taking. An infant's feeding will vary in the first weeks to months.

They may feed a lot for a number of days while going through a growth spurt and then settle again. A thriving baby produces lots of wet nappies and gains weight.

A baby will lose weight in the first few days but has usually regained its birth weight by two weeks, then it gains, on average, 112 to 200g in the first month then 0.5 to 1kg a month to six months and approximately 0.5kg a month for the rest of the first year.

Having a very hungry baby can also cause stress. Some parents worry that their child is gaining too much weight.

It takes time to get to know your baby and giving a feed for every cry is not always the solution. Some do seem to benefit from the comfort of a soother until it's time for the next feed and ideally it is best to allow at least two to two-and-a-half hours between the start of each feed.

Apart from establishing feeding, one of most common problems parents complain about is colic.

This condition can cause much distress to parents who worry there is something seriously wrong, but it is important to know that it is not a disease.

Colicky babies are babies who cry for more than three hours a day more than three days a week for at least three weeks. They are otherwise healthy and thrive, gaining weight, wetting and soiling nappies normally.

Colic is thought to affect between 20 and 40pc of babies at some stage, usually starting from three weeks and subsiding from three to four months of age.

Most remedies for colic focus on trying to relieve wind and digestive discomfort but the truth is that we don't really know what causes it and the digestive tract may not be the cause of crying at all.

Colic occurs in both bottle and breast-fed babies so the type of food doesn't seem to be a trigger.

For those who are breastfeeding, sometimes adjusting the mum's own diet can help.

Eliminating caffeine, dairy products, citrus fruits, spicy foods or gassy foods such as onions and cabbage have all been touted as helping, however research has not backed this up or proven any benefit.

My advice would be to eliminate one food at a time – if it makes no difference prolonged restricted diets won't help. If eliminating dairy from mum's diet, it is important to take some form of calcium and vitamin D supplement as this is essential to both mum and baby's long-term health and well-being.

For all parents trying a soother, walking and gently rocking the baby or swaddling them can help. Other ideas include background white noise such as a vacuum cleaner, tumble dryer or fan – this is thought to help resemble the sounds in the womb which can sooth some babies.

Don't overfeed, it can cause more distress. As a parent caring for a colicky baby it is important to be able to take a break away at times.

Enrolling the support and help of family to allow short breaks away from the crying baby or parent taking turns alternate days or nights to care for the baby can really help ease the stress.

Try to stay positive and remember that a colicky baby is a healthy one and this phase will pass.

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