Does your baby scream, cry excessively, show irritability, or have tummy distension, excessive or trapped gas, clenched fists, and facial expressions indicating pain? They might be suffering from colic.
Infantile colic is a very common disorder, defined as distress or crying in an otherwise healthy infant that lasts for more than three hours a day, three or more days a week, for at least three weeks.
The cause of colic is unknown, and there is unlikely to be one cause. Experts tend to agree on some of the main causes: food sensitivities linked to a mother’s breast milk or a baby’s formula, gastro-intestinal tract immaturity, reflux and overstimulation.
Apart from paying special attention to the right quantity of food, feeding and burping techniques, and ensuring that your baby is getting enough sleep, there are some beneficial natural solutions that have taken a major position in the treatment of colic.
Some natural solutions include:
Numbers 8 (an anti-spasmodic) and 10 (to ease pains from acidity and reflux), can be crushed and dissolved in a little water. Simply give a spoonful to your baby just before a feed and after and then as needed.
Herbal medicinehas a long history among many cultures for digestive complaints. Useful herbs for colic are German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis).
Prescribing herbal medicine to infants requires specialised experience and should be left to a trained herbalist. Alternatively, try a formula specifically formulated for digestive complaints and safe for children, such as ProgastTM Gastrointestinal Drops. Always dilute in water and adhere to the recommended dosage. Use under the supervision of your paediatrician.
Studies shows that colicky babies have more gas-producing bacteria than non-colicky infants who have more anti-inflammatory bacteria. These specific anti-inflammatory bacteria live in the mothers’ vaginally canal. Vaginally delivery carry these health benefits, but all is not lost if you have had a caesarean birth. Research1 shows that liquid probiotics can be placed on the nipple or babies’ lips before feeding.
There are several herbal teas a breastfeeding mom can drink, such as fennel, dill and chamomile tea. Do not give it directly to the baby.
Visit a qualified homeopath for a homeopathic remedy in tincture or pill form (that can be crushed and diluted in water) specifically chosen according to your baby’s symptoms. Belladonna for example, is a homoeopathic remedy for colicky pains that start and disappear suddenly. It is recommended if your baby tends to bend backwards in pain.
Osteopathy and chiropractic treatments
These treatments are noninvasive therapies that may be effective. Structural restrictions during birth, frequently manifest as colic in a baby.
Other solutions to alleviate colic
- Foods eaten by the mother may cause or aggravate colic in a breastfed baby. Some common triggers include gluten, refined carbohydrates, dairy, eggs, citrus fruits, bananas, onions, garlic, mushrooms, legumes, pulses, beans, cucumbers, chocolate, coffee, fizzy drinks, spicy foods and nightshades (aubergines, potatoes, tomatoes and peppers). Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussel sprouts are gas-forming foods that should be avoided.
- Create an environment of comfort, calm and relaxation. Keep sensory stimulation to a minimum before and during a feed. Holding or carrying the baby in a sling close to the body (skin on skin contact), has shown to relax the baby. Some babies respond well to being wrapped tightly, especially while being rocked.
- Don’t wrap your baby too tightly and allow the hips to be flexed. Swaddle safely and avoid overheating. Use tiny swinging movements, always supporting your baby’s head and neck. Suckling can also help. Let your baby suckle on your breast, clean finger or a pacifier.
- The steady rhythm of any kind of movement (pram or car) can be soothing. Try a warm bath or a gentle baby massage. Be sure when massaging on the tummy area, to make movements in a clockwise direction (the direction of the large intestine) to relieve trapped gas.
- Regular nappy changes, really focusing on burping techniques to try and get the wind out and adding a natural remedy of your choice to assist in the symptomatic relief of gastrointestinal discomfort, may bring some much-needed relief. Making a shushing, or ‘shhhhh’, sound has helped many babies to calm down.
Tips to cope
It is very distressing to not be able to console your screaming baby. Take deep calming breaths throughout and keep telling yourself that this phase will pass. Despite the distress and discomfort, babies suffering with colic are usually gaining weight, healthy in all other respects and will grow out of the colicky stage eventually.
Colic babies can affect the sanity of the entire household and are at risk of Shaken Baby Syndrome. Recognise when you can’t cope and if you feel you are at risk of losing it, stop what you are doing immediately.
Give your baby to your partner or even just put her in her cot and take some time to calm down. Walk away to the next room or outside. Only return when you have regained your composure and are able to comfort your baby.
When to seek medical attention
A baby who is crying inconsolably may be ill or in real pain. Seek medical attention quickly for these potentially serious symptoms:
- Persistent diarrhoea or vomiting
- A high-pitched cry
- Unusually drowsy
- Sunken or bulging fontanelle.
Written by Daleen Totten
As editor, publisher and founding member of Natural Medicine Magazine and natmedworld.com, Daleen Totten has been researching and publishing on natural health spanning over 25 years. She has an in-depth knowledge on all aspects of health and natural products. She is the mother of three adult children.
- de Weerth C et al. Intestinal Microbiota of Infants With Colic: Development and Specific Signatures. January 2013; Pediatrics.