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Breastfeeding Magazine

Colic and Breastfeeding – How to Survive the Frustration



Colic and Breastfeeding

Little one have colic? If you are trying to survive colic and breastfeeding, this page is for you!  Get past the frustration to give yourself a break.

I was once in the place where you are trying to manage both the colic and breastfeeding. ALL of my children were high maintenance babies. No sitting the baby down to get anything done for us! One had colic and another had what is referred to as “severe” colic. (Lucky us, right?)

The most important thing for you to realize this that it is not your fault and that breastfeeding is still the best thing that you can do for your baby. Switching to formula will only make it worse. In fact, some babies whose colic ends after three months seem to have it return when they are weaned from the breast!

What You Need to Know About Colic and Breastfeeding

First of all, we need to understand what colic is.

Colic is described as uncontrollable, extended crying in a baby who is well-fed, dry and otherwise should be fine. While every baby cries, some little ones cry for more than three hours a day, three to four days a week…these babies may have colic.

It is estimated that over 20% of babies have or get colic, and it usually starts around two to four weeks of age and can last for three months, or longer in some cases. One of my daughters had what is now referred to as “Severe” colic and it lasted until ten months of age. Other moms that I have met had it last up to a year!

One Potential “Cause”

Been told to make sure the your feed your baby from both breasts at every feeding? You may want to reconsider! Especially if you have a fussy baby…here is why.

Breast milk changes during each feeding. One of the ways in which it changes is that the longer your baby feeds on a breast, the higher the fat content of the breast milk. (This higher fat milk is often referred to as hind milk.)

If mommies automatically switch the baby from one breast to the other during the feeding (before the baby has “finished” the first side) the baby may get a relatively low amount of fat during the feeding. Don’t be fooled by modern thinking…that is NOT good! By doing this you are actually giving the baby less calories , and thus needing to feed more frequently.

Also, if the baby takes in a lot of milk (to make up the low concentration of fat and calories,) she may spit up or cause acid reflux.

Due to the low density fat content of the milk, the baby’s tummy will empty quickly, and a large load of milk sugar (lactose) will arrive in the baby’s intestine all at once. The stomach proteins may not be able to handle so much milk sugar at one time. This will cause your baby to have some symptoms of lactose intolerance-crying, gas, and explosive, watery, greenish bowel movements from the oversupply. This may occur even during the feeding.

NOTE: These babies are not lactose intolerant. They are just victims of incorrect breastfeeding coaching and lack of awareness by moms. Learn more about breastfeeding oversupply here…

HANG IN THERE! Don’t Blame Yourself

How to Survive ColicTHIS IS NOT ALWAYS THE CASE. Many moms who are misinformed think it must be something the mom did or could be doing to prevent or cause colic. That is just not true! MOST cases of colic there is absolutely nothing that you can do to prevent it or stop it!

My middle child SCREAMED from 4pm until 1am for almost 9 months. I breastfed her. I held her constantly (usually in a sling or wrap)…and I did all the things they say are the “cures.” (I even tried some funky waters and things from other countries!) I tried letting her self-soothe.  Nothing worked!

So my advice…just remember this: It is not your fault and more importantly-It will PASS!

Holier than thou women (and men!) who think they have all the answers to this are just plain silly and probably never had a baby with colic. It is a condition that is frustrating and tiring and the last thing you need is to be judged.

BEST Colic Theory

Another theory that we have heard that makes a lot more sense to most moms with colicy babies is from the colic clinic at the Brown Center for the Study of Children at Risk. Barry Lester, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Warren Alpert Medical School believes:

“Many infants who suffer colic make be that some infants who suffer from colic are “hypersensitive to normal stimuli”: they perceive and react to changes in their bodies (such as hunger or gas pangs) or in their environment (such as loud noises or the experience of being touched) more acutely than do other babies.”  (New Yorker, 2007)

The reason that the crying and fussiness tends to be later in the day is because the baby has become overwhelmed by the stimuli around them and is having trouble soothing themselves at this point.

Another doctor told us to think of it this way:  If your brain had to constantly think about EVERY SINGLE process that happens all day….every breath, every touch, every swallow, etc…we would be overwhelmed.  Normally there are things that we do but are somewhat automatic and we do not think about them.  His theory is these babies do.  They also tend to be the children who as toddlers do not like tags on their clothes, certain fabrics or the lines on their socks.  They are just more sensitive than most.

(GUESS WHAT?  They also can be the sweetest, most sensitive children to OTHERS as they get older too!  So there is a silver lining to this!!!)

You Have Our Permission!

No….you do not have permission to stop breastfeeding and run away to join the circus as tempting as that may be some days!

However, you do have our permission to hand that baby off to your hubby or a good friend and to take a break…a bubble bath or a walk. Both colic and breastfeeding can be hard on moms, too. If it gets to you (how can it not?) then give yourself permission to take a rest. Make sure baby is feed, changed and well-rested…and then PLEASE just take a break!

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