The two don't always happen together, but for many, the symptoms are incredibly similar (usually including inconsolable crying) and equally as distressing - for the baby AND for the parents.
Like many parents, we suffered the effects of both, and tried almost everything we could to remedy the situation.
Included in this blog post are some suggestions and some information which you may find helpful if you are an expectant or new parent going through a similar situation.
NB: I am not a medical professional, and any information or advice given in this post should not be deemed to be of a professional standard, or used as a substitute for seeking medical advise from your GP or HV. The information given is simply our own personal experience of different solutions.
Here is our story...
Arthur was born 2 weeks late after a pretty quick labour for a first baby - just over 4 hours (sounds great you may think - but a fast labour comes with its own perils, such as no time for pain relief, an increased risk of severe tearing, less chance of the mucus inside your baby being 'squashed out' when travelling down the birth canal, lack of 'moulding' of the baby's head and of course, the risk that you may almost have your baby somewhere you hadn't intended - such as a hospital corridor).
The first week of parenthood was tiring - Arthur fed every 1.5 - 2 hours, 24 hours a day. I hadn't realised how frequently breastfed, newborn babies may need to nurse, but this is perfectly normal, please don't let anyone advise you otherwise. Click here for more info.
On day 10 things suddenly changed. At 3pm in the afternoon he suddenly started crying inconsolably - for a long time. He got worse if we laid him down. At 10pm it happened again and lasted until 3am. Nothing seemed to help. Not cuddles. Not rocking. Not singing. The crying continued and we were exhausted....and we had no idea what to do.
This same pattern continued at similar times every day, for hours at a time with more symptoms steadily becoming apparent:
- Inconsolable crying for long periods of time
- Crying if laid down
- Crying if held in a 'cradle hold'
- Crying after a feed
- Drawing knees up to chest after a feed
- Being sick/spitting up after every feed
- Taking over 40 minutes to bring up wind after a feed
Professional advice mainly consisted of reassurance that this was an incredibly common issue and was usually short lived...this wasn't at all comforting when we hadn't slept for more than an hour at a time in weeks. Advice was hard to come by - so...
here is a list of the things we tried - it may be helpful to you too...
- Infacol - This is usually the first thing that you will be advised to try for 'colic'. The drops are given to your baby before every feed and will take a couple of weeks to start to work. The ingredients in Infacol are supposed to help the small air bubbles in your baby's tummy join together to form large bubbles which are easier to expel or 'burp'. This seems to work for a lot of parents, but sadly it did not for us.
- Colief - 4 drops of Colief are added to your baby's milk before being administered. This required me to express milk in advance and then add the drops and give this to baby before initiating a breastfeed. I put this into a small cup (the tommee tippee formula pots) and gave it to Arthur this way - it was much easier than trying to administer on a spoon!
This seemed to be like a miracle cure (but a short lived one - it worked for a couple of weeks or so, but at that time a few weeks was better than nothing!).
The problem with Colief is that it is really expensive usually over £10 for a 15ml bottle, which with Arthur's frequent feeds (little and often!) meant a bottle lasted us 2-3 days max!
We went to the Dr to ask for this to be prescribed and unfortunately the initial response from the Dr was that colic is not a medically recognised condition, this particular Dr hadn't heard of Colief - but upon looking it up in his book found out that it was linked to a possible intolerance to lactose based on the lack of an enzyme in the body called lactase - this usually corrects itself by 3 months. He said he wouldn't prescribe the Colief as he couldn't determine whether Arthur actually had a lactose intolerance unless he performed a number of (invasive) tests which would not have been appropriate. He also mentioned an advisory note of not prescribing. I was advised that if I formula fed my baby there would be special types of milk i could try which would help.
This was really upsetting, and clearly didn't support my want or need to continue breastfeeding - but it made us even more determined to find out more information and a way around the decision.
It turns out that in many areas, Colief is on a list of non prescribeable products and there has been a significant push not to prescribe it. It is, however, perfectly acceptable and safe to buy this product yourself and give it to your baby without a prescription!
We did some digging and found the following document: (Click here) which we took back to a different Dr in the surgery who agreed to prescribe Colief on a temporary basis because of the information in this document. For info - the document linked is from Cumbria NHS which states within:
"Breast fed babies can sometimes get temporary lactose intolerance in the early days of breast feeding. Breast fed babies with lactose intolerance can be prescribed Colief at a dose of four drops per feed for 4-6 weeks or until symptoms have resolved. This should be added to 1 tsp/5ml of expressed breast milk in a sterile container and given on a sterile plastic spoon before breast feeding as normal. Prescriptions should be endorsed ‘ACBS’. Exclusion of lactose from the maternal diet is unnecessary as lactose is present in breast milk, independent of diet." This document was reviewed in November 2014 - which is after Colief was added to many non-prescribe lists.
- Infant Gaviscon - This is a powder that is mixed with water or milk and usually given after feeds. It can have a side effect of making your baby constipated. I tried this when Arthur was 5 months old after his reflux suddenly got really bad and he was bringing almost every milk feed back up with quite some force! After night 3 of projectile vomiting in his cot after a feed (despite having been kept upright for an hour!) i decided to give this a go. Many friends had used this successfully with their baby. Unfortunately, rather than keeping the vomit/milk down - it made it really thick like jelly which he gagged and choked on trying to 'spit up' which happened so forcefully he ended up having blood in his sick. I didn't try it again! Instead I started to wean him 2 weeks early ( I figured he was 2 weeks late so this was ok) and the introduction of some solids (baby rice) did help.
- Cranial Osteopathy - Sometimes the force of labour can put pressure on your baby's skull and neck which leads to pain and headaches. When Arthur was 20 days old we took him for his first session with a cranial osteopath where it transpired that he had some tension in the base of his skull and one side of his neck within the muscles which not only caused him pain when lying on his back, but also put pressure on a nerve running through to the abdomen which could cause tummy ache. The day after each of his sessions he was calm, would lay down and sleep - it was like having a different child! It didn't last long in between visits and was very very expensive, but definitely worth having the treatment for the long term benefits of balancing out his neck muscles and making sure the plates of his skull were in the correct position.
- Baby sling/carrier - As well as helping with reflux and wind by keeping your baby in an upright position (particularly after feeds), wearing your baby in a sling can increase your bond by encouraging skin to skin contact. This helps baby to regulate their body temperature, breathing and heart rate. Please read my blog post here on slings for information and recommendations. We really could not have lived without one - quite often on an evening I used to to wear Arthur in a sling whilst bouncing on a birth ball to help wind and settle him.
- Feeding in an upright position - I wished that i could feed lying down to get more sleep - but honestly, this made things worse. Even holding Arthur in a cradle hold didn't help. Feeding him in an upright position (and then keeping him upright) seemed to help with the reflux. As he got bigger he would straddle one of my legs, using it as a seat whilst feeding from the same side.
- Dummy/Pacifier - I was completely against dummies - adamant that I would not use one, not just for the dental issues they can cause but I had also seen first hand in my Teaching role the speech and language difficulties that can arise from the use of a dummy. It wasn't until Arthur was 2 months old that we decided to give one to him at night time and nap times to help settle him (and as a sleep signal). We chose an orthodontic newborn dummy ( they also come in age 6month+) by Dr Brown's which helps to reduce some of the dental problems that could arise from using a dummy.
- Raising the head of the cot - or the moses basket. This can help with reflux by keeping the stomach acids and milk down (due to gravity) rather than coming back up through the immature stomach muscle at the top of the tummy.
- Keep a food diary - If you are breastfeeding, sometimes the foods you eat can affect your baby's digestive system. Some Mothers find that cutting out dairy products can help. A food diary helped me to establish that orange juice and other citrus fruits made Arthur's reflux worse. If you use formula milk, there are different options to try, such as comfort milk which may help with colic and reflux.
Have you tried anything else that worked well? Have you been through something similar? I'd love to read your comments and experiences below.