One for the parents and parents-to-be: one in five babies gets colic, which typically develops at about two weeks of age and hangs around until twelve weeks before disappearing as mysteriously as it arrived. Nobody really knows what causes it, but if you’ve experienced it (or are currently experiencing it) you’ll know how hellish it is.
For the uninitiated, colic is defined as inconsolable crying for three hours, three times a week, for a period of three weeks. That three hours – and in many cases it’s more – isn’t three hours on and off; it’s three hours of constant, heart-rending, teeth-grinding crying that you cannot do a single thing about (babies have two distinct cries: there’s crying, which is awful, and there’s full-on colicky bleating, which is an incredibly upsetting noise. If bad people don’t use recordings of colicky babies in their interrogations, they should).
It’s not fun, it usually starts in the evening and ends in the wee small hours – in other words, when you’re at your most tired and least able to cope with it – and having done quite a bit of looking into it I’m not surprised to discover that the rates of post-natal depression among women with colicky babies skyrockets. Sites that suggest colic is entirely the mum’s fault for not thinking positively enough don’t exactly help.
As I’ve mentioned, nobody really knows what causes it but current thinking is that it’s a collection of various different factors. However, for what it’s worth I can recommend four things that really do seem to make a difference:
* Lactase. Some babies have difficulty digesting lactose, which is present in breast milk and formula milk alike. There’s an enzyme in their guts called Lactase, and its job is to break down lactose; unfortunately before 12 weeks some babies don’t produce enough because their digestive systems are still very immature. For those babies – and baby Bigmouth appears to be one of them – putting a few drops of lactase in each feed can dial down the colic so instead of three hours of constant crying, you get 20 minutes of yelling, a ten minute break, ten minutes of yelling… it’s a vast improvement.
Downside? it isn’t cheap. The main brand, Colief, is £10 for a teeny tiny little bottle that’ll last you about four or five days. Then again, two quid per day to reduce colic is a bloody bargain.
Incidentally, that doesn’t mean the baby has a lactose intolerance. That’s very rare, although judging by the shelf space supermarkets devote to soy formula lots of people clearly think their kids are intolerant.
* Slings. Carrying your little bundle of joy around in a sling seems to reduce colic. I’ve no idea why that should be the case, but it really does seem to work. The difference can be dramatic – it doesn’t guarantee that every night will be colic-free, but it means that a bad night is a relative rarity. As a bonus, slings also act as hands-free kits for kids so you can get on with other things, such as popping speed to keep you awake and drinking insane quantities of alcohol to improve your mood.
* Driving. Getting your little darling into the car and heading out just before colic o’clock can postpone the onslaught, and if you’re lucky reduce its duration to boot. And it means you get out of the house.
* Wireless headphones. Sometimes a colicky baby can’t be comforted at all, and all you can do is keep the baby close until the episode ends. Wireless headphones mean at least you can watch telly in the meantime.
As ever, your mileage may vary. I’m just sticking this up here on the off chance Dr Google brings a parent here rather than to one of the “it’s your fault for not being cheery enough” sites.