What is colic?? Colic is the term used to describe frequent, inconsolable crying or fussiness in an otherwise healthy infant. Episodes often do not have a noticeable trigger and may be more likely to occur in the evening. In general colic becomes noticeable around 6 weeks and will resolve around 4 months. In addition to the crying, the baby may tense up, which looks like clenched fists, stiff arms, legs pulled up to the abdomen, arching her back, or tensing her abdomen.
What causes it?? Part of the problem with colic, and why is can be so stressful, is that no one knows exactly what causes it. Sometimes, what appears to be colic may actually be gastrointestinal discomfort due to gas, bloat, or hunger. However, research has offered some other possible causes for colic. One may be in imbalance in gut flora. The other possible cause is mild general hypoxia at or around the time of birth. Hypoxia is low oxygen to part or all of the body, which may cause a mild injury. Especially in premature infants, the lungs are underdeveloped, so the infant may have a very short period of time of low oxygen causing a mild injury to the central nervous system. The spasms associated with colic may be due to this injury. Because this nervous system tissue can regenerate quickly in a newborn, colic should resolve by 4 months of age.
What are some tricks to get some relief for my baby?? Start by eliminating potential discomfort from gas, bloat, or hunger. If you are bottle feeding, select a bottle and nipple combo that slow the flow of milk down. Feed the baby in an upright position and increase the frequency at which you burp her. If you are breastfeeding, consider working with a lactation consultant to address positioning, flow, and latch issues; also increase the frequency of burping. You may also want to work with a healthcare practitioner who can tweak your diet to make sure that baby is getting enough of the fattier milk that comes at the end of the feed.
The next consideration would be a probiotic supplement. Especially if baby is formula fed or was born via C-section, use an infant probiotic supplement. Most of these come in powders that can be mixed in with the formula and fed via the bottle. If baby is nursing, she and mom can both take a probiotic supplement. Mom can increase her intake of fermented foods or use a GMP compliant supplement with a high CFU count and variety of strains. Baby can use a powdered infant probiotic supplement. If she takes a bottle, mix with juice, water, or tea; if not, place a little of the powder onto mom’s nipple. (For additional info, check out 3 Key Benefits of Probiotics)
Finally, anything designed to increase circulation, promote peristalsis, and soothe baby can be used. This includes swaddling her and rocking/bouncing/dancing her. If central nervous system injury or development play a role in colic, remember that this is a short term issue. Because we don’t know exactly what causes colic — not to mention every mom and baby are different — it’s important to keep as many extra strategies in your toolkit as possible. I have some other options listed below to read over and consider:
• Eliminate allergens — If other strategies don’t seem to be working or are only providing “so much” relief, baby may be experiencing a reaction to food sensitivities. If you’re feeding formula, work with a health care provider to find either a commercial or home made option that baby tolerates better. This may mean an allergen-free option or an option with smaller proteins that are easier to break down. If you’re breast feeding, start by cutting out common allergens for 3-6 weeks. You can then add them back one a time every 72 hours to see how baby responds. If baby experiences relief during elimination and a noticeable reaction after adding something specific back, you’ve likely determined the offending food so it can be removed.
• Gripe water —A mixture of sodium bicarbonate and herbs that can be administered to give baby relief from gas and bloating. Traditional mixtures contained alcohol and sugar, which you’ll want to avoid due to health concerns. Mommy’s Bliss is a good, clean brand. Administer per package instructions.
• Yellow onion tea — Can soothe the spasms from colic. Yellow onion is calming and has been shown to strengthen the stomach and promote optimal intestinal function. Do not give more than 4 tsp of tea twice per day, so that baby still gets adequate milk intake. Give the tea tepid in a dropper.
• Castor oil massage — Abdominal massage with warm castor oil will relax any spasms, release gas bubbles, and promote peristalsis in the GI tract.
• Lavender and camomile bath — Lavender and camomile will help to relax baby, and the warm bath will increase circulation. (Check out Beginner’s Guide Herbal Baths)
• Chiropractic care — Chiropractic manipulation will optimize baby’s central nervous system function and can address injuries sustained through birth trauma.
• Check in with a pediatric dentist or ENT — Work with someone who’s familiar with lip and tongue ties. If baby has a tie that’s causing them to compensate during feeding, this can lead to frustration, gas, and hunger.
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The views expressed in this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition and should not be substituted for medical or nutritional advice.