This is taken directly off the NHS website after searching for information on colic:
“Colic is a common, but poorly understood, condition that affects babies. The most common symptom of colic is excessive and inconsolable crying in a baby that otherwise appears to be healthy and well-fed.”
It also says:
“The cause (or causes) of colic is unknown.”
“There is no evidence to suggest that colic has any long-term adverse effects on your baby’s health.”
“There is currently no cure for colic.”
I think after you have read this ebook you will change your mind about most of these statements. The NHS are fairly definitive in maintaining that you aren’t really going to be able to help your child with their colic, which might make you feel rather helpless and more than a little tired, and although colic in itself is harmless it can be very unpleasant for baby and parents when the knees-up, red-faced crying really gets going.
The line “There is no evidence to suggest that colic has any long-term adverse effects on your baby’s health” is also interesting to me. I agree with it as once the colic has gone you will forget about it in the blink of an eye as you move onto more amazing things like your baby saying “mama”, pointing, rolling over or basically just blinking! However, the reason there is no long-term evidence is probably that a long-term study hasn’t been done. I don’t know for sure that there is a long-term effect but each of the causes of colic I am going to reveal to you could potentially have some longer-lasting effect, nothing drastic mind you, but I think it would be beneficial to correct these causes now; more will become clear later. The good news is that the methods I am going to suggest to address colic will also address these longer-term effects; in fact one of the studies in the probiotic section carried out research and found benefits four years down the line.
So I am going to go against these statements as I actually think that I have developed a formula to calm colic. It may not be a magic bullet in that it works instantly, although it can be fairly quick, but it will certainly make a real, noticeable improvement.
In my years as an osteopath treating babies, the most common problems I see are colic and irritability after birth. I think, and hope, most parents are pleasantly surprised when it is not only cranial osteopathy that I use to help their precious baby. I inquire about the baby’s and mother’s diet, I ask about whether instruments were used in the delivery, whether antibiotics have been used for mother or baby, was the birth in hospital or at home? Is the mother breastfeeding, expressing, or using formula, and if so, what formula
What I am aiming to get is a broad picture about their baby’s new life so far and even about its development in the womb for the previous nine months. What I am trying to get across here is that I’m not just trying to diagnose that the baby has colic, I am looking deeper than that, to find out why the colic is there in the first place and what treatments I can do myself and advise the parents to continue at home so the pain of colic can be calmed and everyone can start to get some good sleep.
On top of this I have tried to include in this ebook much of the information I am giving parents on a daily basis. This might be on their own diets to support themselves and their child, or on how the tired father can get back to work without falling asleep at his desk, or some basics on breastfeeding and more.
I always had in mind that the price for this ebook would be kept minimal and just today I paid more to park my car for the day in Brighton and more for three coffees from Café Nero, so I think it is great value. Fifteen years of experience, hundreds of babies treated and thousands of pounds of extra professional training is incorporated into the book.
The advice I am giving here is based on my findings through treating babies daily for colic and other related issues. When I started to see patterns emerging in what I thought the causes were behind colic I went to the internet to confirm what I was seeing. I looked for evidence-based research and I found plenty to confirm my experiences. I have included these references so that the advice I give here holds up to the scrutiny of the orthodox profession, ie GP’s, health visitors and midwives. The research database I mainly used is called Medline or Pubmed and it is where doctors, consultants and researchers go to find information. So for example, if I make a recommendation and it is questioned by an orthodox professional you could direct them to their own standard research database and the study I found my recommendation in will be there. For example, one of the probiotics I use for mother and baby (Culturelle) has over 500 research studies done on it; this is why I use it. I have a list of all 500 if you would like it!
A few things haven’t been extensively researched, probably because they are difficult to design a study around and I ask you to take my word on these. There is nothing in here that I wouldn’t use on my own children. Also everything I advise I have used many, many times and I have seen the beneficial results. I personally think that seeing great results and having satisfied parents give testimonials is better than having some research, which in itself can have flaws. What can be a better way of knowing that something works than having a mother tell you it has! If I have testimonials about these solutions then I have included these, with the parents’ permission of course.
The one solution that has minimal research behind it is cranial osteopathy; ironically this will be the one that is used most around the country and will have many thousands of satisfied parents to confirm its effectiveness. All the babies that I see are recommended to me because of a need for cranial osteopathy and they are sent by the midwives and health visitors in my local area. This in itself is a huge honour for myself and an endorsement of cranial osteopathy in general.
Finally, I could probably summarise this whole ebook into a few pages and I have done at the end as I know that if you have a colicky baby you will want answers to help them and quickly! A lot of this ebook is devoted to letting you know how my methods work. I have found that teaching parents about what I advise is much more likely to get them to use the recommendations, and if you have more of an understanding of why each problem occurs and what to do to help you can pick the relevant solution for your baby more quickly and apply it correctly. Also when or if you have another baby you can use this knowledge in the future and I hope you will recommend this ebook to other mothers who might be having problems.
COLIC DEFINITIONS AND SOME FACTS AND FIGURES
I have taken these off the NHS website too.
•Colic is a very common condition that affects around 1 in 5 babies. Babies of both sexes are equally affected by colic.
•The symptoms of colic usually begin within the first few weeks of life, and usually resolve by the time the baby is four months of age, and by six months at the latest. (I do have something to say about these timings later.)
•The most common and distinctive symptom of colic is excessive crying in a baby that is otherwise healthy and well-fed.
•The crying that is associated with colic is usually very intense. Your baby’s face will be red and flushed, their crying will be severe and furious, and there will be little or nothing that you can do to comfort them.
•You may also notice a distinctive change in your baby’s posture. Your baby may clench their fists, draw up their knees, or arch their back.
•Crying most often occurs in the late afternoon or evening, and is usually persistent, lasting for at least three hours a day, for at least three days a week, and for at least three weeks’ duration.
•While colic is not usually a sign of anything serious, it is important that your GP is aware of your child’s symptoms in case they are the result of less common conditions.
WHAT DO I THINK COLIC IS?
This next sentence might be the most important sentence in this ebook. Colic is a symptom.
Let me clarify, in my opinion colic is not a disease or a condition in its own right that has a single cause and therefore a single magic cure. If there was a single magic cure then in theory there shouldn’t be any babies with colic anymore because all parents would know about this cure and use it. However, I think this ebook gets very close to being the best solution to helping you understand where the colic is coming from and putting some processes in place to calm it. Through my osteopathic years I have discovered by seeing over and over in my clinic that colic is a symptom of some other problem and it is these other problems that I discuss in this ebook along with ways to correct them.
Some parents have come to me saying they have been told colic doesn’t even exist and I agree with this in a way because it fits with my “it’s a symptom” approach. However colic is an easy, universally known name for a collection of symptoms including tummy ache, bowel discomfort and windiness, and is usually accompanied by a very uncomfortable screaming baby, especially in the early evening. It can often take hours for the parents to settle a colicky baby, keeping them up most of the night and causing them to be very tired the next day. Colic can also be more mild, just a difficulty in winding after a feed, but this is still as distressing for the baby and parents, and sleep-depriving too.
MY APPROACH TO COLIC
So what do I think it is? I believe I have evolved over fifteen years a comprehensive approach to helping babies with colic, covering all bases as it were, not just a single approach. I think each cause is an obstacle or “blocking factor” causing your baby’s digestion not to work as it should. Remove these obstacles and your baby will digest its milk properly with no discomfort. So I think colic is a symptom originating from a number of causes, and each one can be helped, most of them fortunately by the same method. If someone says to me that their baby has colic, I try to find which one or more of these causes is present and then we treat them.
I would have liked to have called this book “The cure for colic!” as it certainly would have attracted attention, but it isn’t a cure as such; naturopaths know that only the body can cure itself, we can just help remove the obstacles that are getting in the way and the baby will just return to how it should naturally be. I will be telling you all about these obstacles and how to fix them. Let me add here that I can’t think of an occasion where it hasn’t been one of these obstacles that I am going to discuss with you in this ebook
THE 10 COMMON CAUSES OF COLIC
Let’s list now each of the 10 issues /obstacles I have seen occur over and over again in babies with colic.
1. Birth trauma—long births, instrument delivery (forceps, vonteuse, kiwi), quick births, C-sections, premature births.
2. Antibiotic use and imbalance in bowel bacteria.
3. Maternal separation.
4. Growing pains.
5. Feeding and sleep environment and routine.
6. Foods eaten by the breastfeeding mother cause colic.
7. Formula-fed babies have issues with the formula causing colic.
8. The mother has digestive issues of her own such as Crohns, IBS, or ulcerative colitis.
9. The mother is deficient in good foods and nutrients resulting in a “hungry baby” that is unsatisfied with breast milk.
10.Stress in parents, before, during and after the birth.
1. BIRTH TRAUMA
Long births, instrument delivery (forceps, vonteuse, kiwi), quick births, C-sections, maternal separation, premature births
All of these traumatic births can be contributory causes of colic. The birth doesn’t even have to be labelled “traumatic”; you know after all that the easiest, most straightforward of births is a big deal to you and your baby. Some of the worst symptoms I have seen in babies are from very quick births and C-sections, so we must be aware that any birth can be problematic. Let’s have a look at each of these individually and see why they cause problems and then look at what can be done to correct them.
You might think that a C-section birth is the least traumatic of any type of delivery; however it is often quite the opposite. A C-section that isn’t pre-scheduled usually comes about because a natural birth hasn’t worked in some way. It often means that the use of forceps or vonteuse has been attempted and failed, causing some trauma to the baby’s head. It might also mean that the natural birth has failed to develop and the baby’s head has got stuck in the birth canal, resulting in strong contractions on its head and compressing the spine for an extended period of time without any progression. The baby can even get pushed back up the birth canal so it can be extracted out of the abdomen. This pushing back up the canal in itself can have implications as it can compress the baby’s neck too. In the chapter on cranial osteopathy I will write more on how this sort of action can irritate the nerve to the stomach and gut and possibly cause colic.
If the C-section is planned and no actual birth contractions have occurred then the baby has no idea it is going to be born, so it can suffer from shock at being pulled out. Imagine yourself being in the womb, nice and cosy and warm, and then all of a sudden a hand comes in and pulls you out without warning. I have also seen C-section babies that remain quite sleepy as they haven’t had the normal birth to wake them up! Often cranial osteopathy can help with this “waking up”, it does mean you get a more active baby though, rather than a sleepy lethargic one.
Another problem with a C-section is that it doesn’t utilise the normal mechanics of a vaginal birth. This is acknowledged by the orthodox medical community and it is often found that C-section babies have lung and other general congestion because the normal delivery hasn’t squished the baby to clear the internal fluid.
Cranial osteopaths are also concerned that the action of pulling the baby out by the head and neck (the opposite of a vaginal birth where the baby is pushed out) may cause stretching to the neck and be a factor in colic. Attention is therefore given to treating the baby’s neck. It is common that c-section babies have hiccups a lot and I put this down to this stretch that has been put on the neck. The nerve that supplies the diaphragm in the abdomen actually comes from the neck. If the trauma of the birth has irritated this nerve then it can make the diaphragm spasm more often, basically giving hiccups.
Instrument delivery (forceps, vonteuse, kiwi)
Deliveries by these instruments usually show clearly as marks on the baby’s head including grazes, bruising and haematoma “bumps & lumps”. For most babies these injuries clear extremely rapidly but to a cranial osteopath they give a clue as to where we should look in order to calm and release tension through the bones of the skull. The “tightest” heads I feel are usually after forceps deliveries but this isn’t necessarily the case.
The evidence of these pressures and strains may not be apparent as the soft, malleable heads of babies revert to a normal shape very quickly. However a cranial osteopath can still feel those strains with refined palpitation, and I try to get parents who come to see me to imagine this stress on the baby’s head. For example after a vonteuse the top of the head may retain the strain of being pulled, and after a forceps delivery there may still be the feeling of clamping or compression.
Your baby loves to suckle
Babies with cranial tension often like sucking as it gives some mechanical relief to the tension in their head. To help explain the mechanism behind this I ask parents to think about having to swallow to clear your ears when coming to land in a plane. The motion of swallowing or sucking a sweet activates a mechanism in the cranial bones that gives relief to the ear pain. Something to look out for therefore is that your baby may like sucking which usually makes you think they are hungry. However when you put them on the breast or make them a bottle they thrash around and stop feeding, coming on and off the bottle or breast, bringing milk up and spluttering. The reason can be that they want to suck but in fact don’t want the milk. Tricky little thing! This can be really frustrating for the mother and a cause of sore nipples if you are breastfeeding. If you are experiencing this then you will clearly understand what I mean.
To use a dummy?
A way to see if your baby’s discomfort is eased by sucking is to offer your little finger for them to suck on or to use a dummy. The use of a dummy can be controversial, however it can really help settle your baby and it doesn’t have to be long-term. If your baby is dramatically helped by sucking, and is content doing this but isn’t actually hungry, then your next step should be to see a cranial osteopath for some treatment to release the cranial tension so the dummy isn’t needed.
A little tip here which a midwife gave me is to use an old fashioned style dummy when babies are only a few weeks old. These are more of a bulb shape and can be sucked more easily than the modern orthodontic ones. As they grow a bit you can swap to the orthodontic style dummies.
Back and neck arching
Another very common symptom I see in babies that indicates some trauma at birth is if they arch themselves backwards. This shows that they are tense in the spine, usually in the neck and upper spine between the shoulders. They may arch after feeding or seem to be stretching backward all the time. Often in addition to the backward arch they also arch upwards looking to the side. If they are doing this to the right for example you can imagine the feeding difficulties a mother might have when it comes to the baby needing to turn left to feed off the right breast. Again a cranial osteopath will be able to gently “unwind” these tensions and allow your baby to straighten up naturally.
What is interesting about this backward arching or “extension pattern” is that it is opposite to the classic colic posture which is “flexion” ie knees up in a ball, going bright red and screaming. For me this illustrates nicely again that colic isn’t caused by one thing. Two mothers can come to visit me with colicky babies; one has the more typical knees up-crying, the other is crying with an arching back. With the first I will think tummy pain, with the second I will be immediately thinking more about birth pressures and the use of cranial osteopathy to relieve the tension.
I have also clinically noticed that backwards arching babies more often seem to have reflux, posset or bring up their milk. The reason behind this is that the tightness in the spine between the shoulder blades is associated with the area through which milk passes into the stomach. The spine can be tight enough to constrict the opening to the stomach hindering the milk passing through and so reflux is more likely to occur. Cranial osteopaths can also free this tightened spine area.
Does your baby have a strong neck?
Often parents will mention that their baby has a strong neck. It seems that as parents (me too!) we are always looking for our babies to develop quickly and be the first to do something, so when they lift their little heads up to look around we get very excited! However, when they are very new and are doing this a little earlier than is expected it often accompanies the arching mentioned above, and therefore might be that they are a little tight from the birth rather than having a strong neck. This just adds another piece to the puzzle as to why your baby may have colic and will give another indicator to the cranial osteopath where the most tension may be held.
Lifting your baby
When there is “arching” and a “strong neck” I often coach the parents on how to lift their baby. Because you do not want to exaggerate the arching that is already occurring it will be helpful to give your baby support to their head when lifting them. This is particularly important when lifting them up from laying on their back. If you hold them under their back at the base and at the top but you don’t support the head then the neck just flops back into the very extension or arching position the cranial osteopath will be trying to fix. A better way is to use one hand on the base of the spine while the upper hand holds the top of the spine and spreads to support the neck and back of the head thus preventing the head from flopping backwards.
An irritated had
I regularly see babies suffering from irritation around their heads. They may not like laying down on the back of their head, often they find having their clothes pulled over their head really annoying and they especially don’t like having hats put on. Also some babies will frequently have their hands up to their face and ears as if they are trying to rub themselves, however most of the time they just end up scratching themselves, often in their ears. These are really clear indicators to me that the baby needs some birth tension relieved with cranial osteopathy.
Cord around neck
It often happens that the cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck when it is born. This sounds more dramatic than it often is and the midwives usually quite simply pull the cord apart easily and pop it over the newborn’s head. I’m not a midwife obviously but I expect the cord can be loose around some babies and tighter around others depending on how the birth has gone. I’m not sure how much influence the cord around the neck has as the cord is actually very stretchy, obviously nicely designed so there is plenty of give in it if this happens. I do take this piece of information into account however and it does direct me to check the baby’s neck for tensions, so it is worth mentioning to the cranial osteopath when you visit them. In the same way as with c-section births these babies may suffer hiccups more than is normal because of a little tension in the neck.