Colic: the basics

12:0AM, Jan 20th 2010

A colicky baby can be a nightmare - here's our beginners' guide.

Colic is pain in the abdomen, and it is generally thought to be caused by wind. It affects about 40% of babies, usually between the ages of two weeks and four months. The main symptom is the sudden onset of regular, prolonged periods of crying, usually in the evening and lasting around 20 minutes. During these bouts, your baby may draw his knees up towards his stomach, his face may go red and he might have a lot of excess wind.

What you should do

First, rule out other possible reasons for your baby's distress. Check that he isn't hungry or ill, or need feeding or changing. Get your GP or health visitor to take a look at him. Once you're sure colic is causing his discomfort, try the following techniques until you find one that works for you - and for him.

Give him a cuddle
Hold him to your chest, rock him gently in your arms, or hold him face down, with his stomach across your lower arm. This position can help expel excess wind, and some mothers find it brings instant relief.

Distract him
Hold a mirror in front of his face, switch on the vacuum cleaner or washing machine, or simply take him into another room for a change of scenery. Taking him for a drive or walk in the pram can be very helpful, as the movement can have a calming effect. Sucking on a dummy may also soothe him.

Try a massage
A massage can help release trapped wind. Gently move your hands in a clockwise, circular motion from the navel out over your baby's stomach. Use a baby massage oil to help your hands glide easily over his skin. It's best to massage him about an hour before you think he's likely to cry - but not just after a feed.

See your pharmacist
Colic drops, such as Infacol, are specially formulated to relieve wind and griping pain and are free of sugar, alcohol and colourants so are safe to use on tiny babies. Colic drops are available from your pharmacist without prescription, and most are suitable for babies from birth (always read the label). Give your baby a few drops before each feed to help relieve colic and soothe any griping pains.

If you find that none of these techniques work the first time, try them again a few days later. What doesn't work today may work tomorrow, so don't despair.
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