Colic and Reflux: The Silent Struggle That Every Parent Should Know About

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All babies cry—it’s their way of communicating needs and exploring their new world. Especially during the first six weeks, they might cry for 2 to 3 hours a day. And by the time they reach three months, they cry more than at any other time in their life. 

However, it can be worrisome and overwhelming if your baby seems unusually fussy or is often in discomfort. You might wonder, “What’s wrong? Am I doing something wrong?”

Well, you don’t need to stress! Often, this distress is due to conditions like colic and reflux. Understanding and managing these issues can greatly reduce stress and your baby’s discomfort. 

That said, this article delves into the silent struggles of colic and reflux, providing you with valuable advice and insights to help you through this tough time.

Is It Colic or Reflux: Decoding the Tears

Colic or reflux in breastfed babies can make babies fussy, but many new parents, especially breastfeeding mothers, don’t know that they have different signs.

Colic

The “rule of threes” is often used to help define colic:

  • Crying for more than 3 hours a day: The crying episodes are prolonged and intense.
  • On more than 3 days a week: The crying occurs frequently.
  • For more than 3 weeks: The pattern of crying persists over time.

It’s important to note that this is a general guideline, and some babies may experience colic with slightly different patterns.

Reflux

Reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GER), involves frequent spitting up or even vomiting. It happens because the muscle at the bottom of the esophagus (the tube connecting the mouth and stomach) is not fully developed, allowing stomach contents to come back up.

This condition is especially common after breastfeeding sessions. Breastfeeding can sometimes trigger reflux episodes in infants because the feeding process involves a complex interaction of suckling, swallowing, and digestion. 

The relaxed or underdeveloped esophageal sphincter in infants often fails to keep the stomach contents from coming back up. However, it is noteworthy that reflux is not the same as normal spitting up. 

Here’s how you can differentiate between them:

  • Normal Spitting Up: Most babies spit up occasionally, especially after feedings. This is usually harmless and doesn’t cause the baby any discomfort.
  • Reflux Requiring Attention: If the spitting up is frequent, forceful (projectile vomiting), causing discomfort or pain, or interfering with the baby’s growth, it’s essential to talk to a lactation consultant.

Tips for Parents to Ease Newborn’s Discomfort

Caring for a newborn with colic or reflux can be challenging, but there are effective ways to ease their discomfort. Here are three practical tips that can help:

Adjust Feeding Techniques

How and when you feed babies with reflux can make a big difference. Try feeding your baby in a more upright position and burp them frequently to prevent air from building up in their stomach, which can exacerbate reflux. 

If your baby struggles with colic, feed them smaller amounts more frequently to ease digestive discomfort.

Gentle Movement 

Gentle, steady motions can be very soothing for colicky babies. Rocking in a chair, gentle bouncing on an exercise ball, or a slow walk in a baby carrier can help. The motion distracts from discomfort and can mimic the movement they felt in the womb, providing a sense of security.

Watch Your Diet 

If you are breastfeeding, your diet might affect your baby’s colic or reflux symptoms. Foods known to cause issues include dairy, caffeine, and spicy foods. So, you must consider keeping a food diary to track what you eat and how it affects your baby. You can then discuss any findings with your pediatrician.

Role of Lactation Consultant

A lactation consultant plays a vital role in the early days of breastfeeding. Here’s how they make a difference:

  • Personalized Support: They provide tailored advice on breastfeeding techniques and positions to ensure your baby latches properly, reducing discomfort for both of you.
  • Solutions for Issues: Whether it’s low milk supply, nipple pain, or helping a baby with reflux feed better, they offer practical solutions.
  • Emotional Reassurance: Their support goes beyond the physical aspects of breastfeeding, offering encouragement and boosting your confidence as a new parent.

Final Thoughts

Managing colic and reflux involves patience and trial and error. Every baby is different, and what works for one might not work for another. The key is to remain patient and try different strategies to find what best soothes your baby. With time and the right approaches, you’ll be able to ease their discomfort significantly, leading to more peaceful days and nights for both of you.

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