Does my baby have colic or just trapped wind?
Looking after a colic baby can be very frustrating and distressing, but the problem will eventually pass and is usually nothing to worry about!
Colic is the name for excessive, frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy. It’s a common problem that affects up to one in five babies and is accompanied by continuous high-pitched, inconsolable crying for a few days.
What causes colic?
The cause or causes of colic are unknown, but several theories have been suggested. These include trapped wind or a temporary gut sensitivity to certain proteins and sugars found in breast and formula milk. Colic occurs equally in boys and girls, but less so in babies who are breastfed than those who are bottle-fed.
Colic often occurs at the same time of day (usually late afternoon or the evening) and your baby may be inconsolably for long periods- up to 2hours. It is not a disease and won’t cause won’t baby any long-term harm – but is very stressful for both of you.
Signs and symptoms of colic include:
- intense crying bouts
- crying in the late afternoon or evening that lasts several hours
- your baby’s face is red and flushed when they cry
- your baby clenching their fists, drawing their knees up to their tummy, or arching their back while crying
Administering Paediatric colic drops before a feed may help to relieve the abdominal discomfort that babies feel because of excessive gas and bubbles in their tummy. Most colic drops contain an ingredient that causes the small bubbles of gas in your baby’s tummy to join a larger bubble that can be easily expelled, giving your baby some relief from the bloating and discomfort. To be called colicky, it is necessary that he is gaining weight appropriately and otherwise healthy. However even when the baby is gaining weight, they may still be crying because still hungry!
Why baby wind causes pain & discomfort
All babies have wind, but some babies simply have more wind than others. Some babies also have an easier time passing wind, which may stem from a learned or innate ability.
Normally, the wind is not a problem and causes no pain or discomfort because it is quickly and easily pushed through the digestive system..
However, babies are born with a very immature gut. Muscles that support digestion have not developed the proper rhythm (peristalsis) for moving food efficiently through the digestive tract. While a certain amount of gassiness is completely normal and many babies would go through periods of crying for no apparent reason, as they simply get used to their new world
You will know and feel your baby’s discomfort if you notice signs and symptoms such as;
- abdominal bloating,
- hard distended belly
- frequent burping
- spit-ups/ posseting
- flatulence and excessive fussiness or restlessness.
The discomfort could be trapped wind caused be excess air getting stuck in your baby’s tummy. This often occurs when babies are rushing through their feeds, gulping mouthfuls of air when feeding or gulps it in while crying. This makes them falsely feel full although hasn’t had enough.
Common signs your baby has trapped wind include:
- Squirming or crying during a feed
- looking pained or uncomfortable when you put her down afterward.
Your baby’s immature digestive system is unable to cope effectively when gas pockets form in their stomach, this causes the stomach to distend and can also be a reason for hiccups, it is important to burp often during feeds or between breasts.
If your baby is bottle-fed, make certain that the bottle’s nipple is the right size. If the nipple is too big, it will cause your baby to feed too fast. If it’s too small, it will cause your baby to gulp air.
Likely reasons for trapped wind:
Another possible reason for infant gassiness is a hyper-lactation syndrome.
When a mother has an abundant milk supply, she may produce a larger amount of foremilk.
Foremilk is higher in water content, higher in lactose and usually delivered with greater force during let-down.
A baby that gulps the quickly flowing milk tends to take in more air, thereby getting gassier. In excess, foremilk can make your baby’s stomach full and may feel a cramp, creating more fussiness, because the baby is not getting enough of the rich hindmilk, he or she may want to feed more often, which prolongs the problem.
The baby that suffers from hyper-lactation syndrome is characterized by higher than normal weight gain, increased gassiness, and fussiness.
Overstimulation can also lead to the increased wind.
Sensitive infants that are bombarded with noise, lights, touch and multiple experiences will usually “shut down” become fussier in an attempt to reduce stimulation.
Babies that are easily overloaded often experience more severe wind, fussiness, and difficulty sleeping later in the day or night.
in fact, the more activities such as errands, visitors, TV, phones etc in your baby’s day, the higher the chances of fussiness in your baby’s evening and night.
Trapped Wind Remedies for Babies
- To reduce the chances of wind when bottle feeding, keep your baby in an upright position whilst feeding.
- Tilt the bottle so the milk completely covers the hole too – this will help prevent any air getting in.
- If your baby’s feeding well and seems happy, don’t stop to wind – they might get upset crying and then gulp in air as she cries. Wait for them to slow down and sometimes may come off on their own. It’s useful to gently stretch your baby out when winding.
- Good positions to adopt include holding her over your shoulder with her bottom supported, sitting her upright or laying her face down on your lap.
- Breastfed babies are less prone to the trapped wind because they have greater control over milk flow. But may still suffer if she feeds quickly or your milk is fast-flowing.