Information & Advice
As a parent, much of your day, and night, is likely to revolve around feeding routines. Making sure your baby is feeding well is therefore bound to be one of your top priorities. If you do come across something that disrupts this, it's entirely normal to want to understand it better, so you can help soothe your baby.
Colic, reflux and constipation are three of the most common feeding conditions babies may experience and it can be as distressing for parents as it may be for baby.
While these symptoms can pass relatively quickly, we know it can be difficult at the time, so understanding more about why baby's feeding is not going smoothly, and where you can turn to for support, might just give you some peace of mind.
To help, we've put together some information on each of these conditions, plus some tips that may be worth trying.
Is my baby's crying colic?
Colic is defined as excessive, high-pitched bouts of inconsolable crying in an otherwise healthy baby. This tends to start in the first few weeks of life but you'll be glad to hear it usually resolves itself by four to six months of age.
Obviously babies do cry. But if your baby is crying excessively, always speak to a health professional in case there is an underlying reason which needs medical attention.
So what does "excessive" crying mean? It can be defined as the '333 rule':
What are the symptoms of colic?
There are other symptoms which may be associated with the persistent excessive crying. These can appear subtle when your baby's not in an established routine, so don't worry if you don't pick up on them straight away.
For example, you may notice baby having difficulty sleeping and crying inconsolably, often in the late afternoon or evenings. Other symptoms to look out for include flatulence, a flushed face, clenched fists and drawing knees up to the chest. But babies with colic are otherwise healthy and continue to gain weight normally.
What causes colic?
Although the reasons behind colic are not fully understood, the latest evidence shows there might be a number of possible explanations for it, which include:
How common is colic?
Around one in five babies have colic, so chances are, you will know other parents who will have been through the same.
We know that looking after a baby with colic can be tiring and upsetting for parents too, so maybe try sharing your experience - you might find it comforting, especially if it's your first baby.
Our mum says
"My little boy had colic - 5-7pm was always the worst time for him. We found that winding him on our shoulders worked best and doing it for five minutes longer than we thought he really needed helped work it all through."
Carrie, mum to Charlie *
What tips can I follow to soothe my baby?
Coping with colic can get stressful but remember it won't last forever, the symptoms will pass and it usually gets better on its own, after a few months.
Nonetheless, a constantly crying baby can be frustrating, so you may want to try some of these commonly used comforting techniques:
*Please note: this is based on a personal experience and the advice will not necessarily work for everyone.
How can I tell if my baby might be constipated?
Constipation is abnormally delayed or infrequent passage of stools - less than three times a week. Look out for stools which are hard and dry and often look like rabbit droppings or large sausages.
What are the symptoms of constipation?
You may notice baby has foul smelling wind and stools and is frequently flatulent. When they do pass stools it may often appear strained and painful.
Your baby may also seem irritable, angry or unhappy, with a lack of energy or appetite.
What causes constipation?
Every child is different, so the exact cause can be hard to identify.
There may be several contributing factors such as:
What tips can I follow?
Early diagnosis and treatment is important to avoid complications. So, if you are worried about your baby's constipation, speak to a healthcare professional.
How common is it?
Constipation is common in childhood and is thought to occur in five to 30 per cent of children.
IMPORTANT: Consult a health professional if a baby is less than eight weeks old and has not passed a stool for several days.
The following tips may help prevent your baby getting constipated in the first instance:
What is reflux?
Reflux is the passage of stomach contents into the food pipe. It is an entirely normal physiological process which occurs several times a day, even in healthy babies, with few or no symptoms.
The refluxed stomach contents can pass up to the pharynx (top part of the throat) or mouth, leading to vomiting or effortless regurgitation, also known as 'posseting' or 'spitting up'. However, for some babies the symptoms can be troublesome.
What are the symptoms of reflux?
You may notice baby's crying is constant or sudden. You may also notice:
What causes reflux?
When food is eaten, a valve-like mechanism prevents the stomach's contents from leaving and rising up the food pipe.
Naturally, your baby's digestive system is still maturing, so the valve mechanism is not yet strong, which means contents may leave the stomach and travel back towards the mouth.
How common is reflux?
Reflux is common in infants because of the immaturity of their digestive system and 18 per cent of infants have symptomatic reflux.
Until what age does it last?
Reflux symptoms in babies typically peak at around four-six months of age and resolve after 12 to 14 months.
What tips can I follow to soothe my baby?
Of course it can be upsetting when your baby has reflux, so if you are worried about it, or if they are vomiting large amounts of their feeds regularly, speak to a healthcare professional.
You can also consider following practical steps such as:
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