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Breastfeeding challenges

There may be times when breastfeeding is challenging. Never ignore any issues you may have – talk to your health visitor, midwife, GP or breastfeeding specialist as soon as possible, they will be able to help you sort it out quickly.

Here are some common breastfeeding issues, and tips on what to do.

Colic

Colic usually starts when a baby is a few weeks old – and stops when they're around 4 to 6 months of age.

If your otherwise healthy baby cries inconsolably for 3 or more hours a day, at least 3 days per week (and it's been happening for 3 weeks or more) – it could be caused by colic.

Symptoms include:

  • intense crying, lasting several hours
  • clenched fists, arched back, knees being pulled up to tummy
  • red or flushed face when crying
  • inconsolable – nothing you do seems to make it better
Colic is a very common condition affecting 1 in 5 babies, regardless of whether they're breast or formula-fed.

As a parent of a colicky baby, it can be exhausting and extremely upsetting – but it will stop. It's also important to remember that you need to be looked after too – if possible, ask family and friends for their support so you can take regular rest breaks.

If you're finding it difficult to cope, there are support groups like Cry-sis – originally set up by a group of parents who had problems with their crying and sleepless babies – who offer support and advice. Call 0845 122 8669 (9am to 10pm, 7 days a week).

Dad holding his baby

Soothing a colicky baby

Sadly, there is no actual cure for baby colic, only methods to provide relief and soothe them. Also, you may find that what works one day, has no effect the next. These are some of the tried and tested techniques that other parents use:

Burping: Burp (or wind) your baby during and after every feed – have a look at burping your baby for techniques.

Sit your baby up: When breast or bottle feeding, sit your baby up as straight as possible. This will help minimise the amount of air they swallow. If you are bottle feeding, try to make sure the milk fills the teat and there are no air pockets – you could try using an anti-colic bottle to see if that helps.

Hold them: During bouts of crying, hold your baby to your chest so they can feel and hear your heartbeat.

Rock your baby: Sometimes the swaying motion of rocking your baby in your arms can help.

Warm bath and a massage: A warm bath can be soothing, followed by a gentle tummy massage (with gentle, circular strokes on the tummy).

Create a calming atmosphere: Babies can become overstimulated with lots of noise and activity around them. Try to quieten your surroundings, switch the TV off, dim the lights, and try to take some deep breaths yourself.

The Breastfeeding Friend from Start4Life, available 24 / 7, has lots of useful information and expert advice to share with you.

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