There is nothing that has broken my heart so much as seeing my little Fig screaming in pain with trapped wind.  He pulls his legs up, then stretches them out and arches his back; his little face goes cherry tomato red and the tiny white knuckles of his clenched fists punch furiously at the air around him.  He cries and yelps, then it eases for a moment and he looks at me accusingly before it starts again.  This can go on for a long time.  Hours sometimes.  The pain often wakes him, and he can be inconsolable, and impossible to settle again.  I stand or sit holding tightly onto this little being who fights me as though I’m causing the tummy ache.  My own helplessness has brought me to tears on more than one occasion.

So why am I so helpless?  Babies have had this problem forever, and yet there’s still frustratingly little truly helpful advice, or cure, or indeed even specific diagnosis.  We know that a newborn has a tiny stomach (the size of a marble, I’m told, at birth) and that their digestive systems haven’t yet fully formed. This can lead to any one – or presumably, combination of any number – of a long list of issues: constipation, or its messier opposite diarrhoea, temporary lactose intolerance caused by lack of the enzyme that breaks down milk, trapped air bubbles or acid reflux. And our experience has been that, as lovely and sympathetic as they all are, the only diagnosis doctors, midwives or health visitors can give is that it’s probably one of those things, and although they all have different remedies, they all come under the umbrella term ‘colic’. The medical definition of colic is blah blah blah tummy ache blah blah screaming. The cure is try stuff and see what works. So we did, and here is what we discovered worked and what didn’t for our little Fig:

[1] The doctor listened to his tummy and said he was constipated, borne out by the fact that he hadn’t pooped in a couple of days.  We were advised to try giving him a little water between feeds, which we did, and which worked – Fig pooped a poonami about 6 hours after taking 30mls of delicious H2O.

[2] The doctor also gave us Gaviscon Infant (or Infant Gaviscon, whichever way round it goes) in case it was reflux.  A day and a half later a health visitor told us it can cause constipation, so we stopped using it as it seemed a little self-defeating.

[3] A friend sent us a baby parcel which contained, amongst other things (the most important of which were red wine and Brie, the two things I’d sobbed over having to give up in pregnancy) a bottle of Infacol, which he said had been a godsend when his two children, now teenagers, were babies.  Fig loved it – it tastes of orange, and his little face when it first dripped onto his tongue was hilarious: wait, this isn’t milk!  Nobody told me there’s another flavour!  Anyway, Infacol supposedly works by joining up all the little air bubbles inside baby to make a big air bubble which in theory is easier to bring up.  I’m afraid it had no effect on Fig at all.

[4] We were then recommended Colief, which contains lactase, the enzyme that breaks down milk.  This is for babies that have TLI – temporary lactose intolerance.  The milk in their teeny tums isn’t being broken down as they can’t yet make lactase, so it ferments and releases gas.  Sorry to say, this made Fig worse, so we quickly concluded that his problem wasn’t TLI. It was good to rule something out, and the secondary relief here was the expense – Colief costs crazy money.

By this time, we were hyperventilating with exasperation.  There had to be some potion, some concoction, some witches’ brew that would alleviate Fig’s belly ache.

[5] When he turned the ripe old age of one month, we were told he was now of age and could try the Dickensian sounding classic, Gripe Water. And guess what?  It worked a treat!  When we winded him, Fig brought up mahoosive great burps! It isn’t a magic cure, despite a name that conjures up an elixir made by the wild woman in the woods, but it has certainly helped. Plus, Fig absolutely loves it. He smacks his little lips together in delight and dribbles the sticky dill mixture all down his teeny chin. Wait – there are THREE flavours?

[6] And finally, to work alongside the Gripe Water, we have invested in the super-expensive Dr Brown’s bottles. We bought one to try, and although a pain to have to wash and sterilise it after every feed, after two days we were enough convinced of its efficacy to buy more.  We got the old wide necked ones with the blue vent, as reviews suggest the newer Options bottles leak a lot: as long as you follow the instructions, we find the classic Natural Flow don’t leak, and they really aren’t that faffy to clean or put together, as reviews also suggest.  But for us – or, more importantly, for Fig – they do make a difference.

We still have the occasional yelp and scream, and a few instances of cherry tomato face and fist pumping, but the combination of Gripe Water and Dr Brown’s bottles has definitely improved baby Fig’s tummy probs.  Fingers crossed these things continue to work, and that Fig grows out of it soon.  Come on baby, develop that digestive system!


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