Colic can be tricky. Hard to cope with. Hard to diagnose. And usually hard to alleviate. Some doctors say it’s from an immature digestive system, some say from overfeeding, and others say it’s simply the sign of an extra fussy baby. I don’t think it’s just one single cause for every baby.
.. Regardless, colic is defined by the rule of 3. Inconsolable crying for a total of 3 hours, 3 days per week for 3 weeks or more.. And it’s not fun for anyone.
Colic affects up to 28% of infants, causing considerable stress for parents and for their health care providers.2 Indeed, in the first 3 months of a baby’s life, crying is the No. 1 reason for pediatric visits.3 Parents often perceive—incorrectly—that the inconsolable crying is either a sign of serious illness or a result of poor parenting skills.4
I’ve seen many babies with colic in my 20 years of private practice, but it wasn’t until I had my own baby with colic that I really got to know the problem. And the potential solutions..
So here are my 10 tips for tackling Colic. It’s a strategy actually, because I’ve prioritised the steps in a particular order for good reasons:
1. Get support! Have time out. Even 5 minutes can help your state of mind. Get someone to help with bubs while you go outside, take a shower, go for a walk, etc..
2. Check that baby is getting sufficient milk. It can be confusing to be sure. The best indicator for this is wet and dirty nappies, and weight gain.. Wet nappies; 6+ in a 24 hr period from day 4. Urine should be pale and mild smelling. 3 – 4+ dirty nappies per day (from day 4). It’s not unusual for an older breastfed newborn to poo less, like once in 1-2 weeks. The normal stool of a breastfed baby is usually yellow and is loose (soft to watery), like pumpkin soup.
3. Check for reflux and silent reflux. Both can make babies cry. The simplest way is to do a Mylanta test. That is give 1/2 strength Mylanta for 3 days. If there’s a significant reduction in symptoms then reflux is at play. Then see a GP for a better treatment strategy. If there’s no change in symptoms.. see the next tip.
4. Place baby upright after feeding when possible. As often as possible. It can help them digest the milk.
5. Check if your baby has other symptoms as well, like a rash or odd-looking poos? Have your baby checked by your doctor in case there is anything medical that is causing your baby to be unsettled. It could be something as different as an ear or throat infection. But if not..
6. Most infant fussiness is normal for a young baby, and is not related to foods in Mum’s diet. If your baby is sensitive to something you are eating, you will most likely notice other symptoms in addition to fussiness, such as excessive spitting up or vomiting, colic, rash or persistent congestion. Fussiness that is not accompanied by other symptoms and calms with more frequent nursing is probably not food-related.
But if not or worsens with more nursing, look into an elimination diet. Some of the most likely suspects are cow’s milk products, soy, wheat, corn, eggs, and peanuts. Irritating food compounds are also found in chocolate, spicy food, caffeine. It’s a good idea to check with a nutritionist or dietitian to make sure your covering your nutritional bases whilst breastfeeding. And yes it’s hard to go without some foods for a time. But it’s usually temporary. And worth if it makes baby more settled right?
7. If still no change, see a lactation consultant to check feeding/ tongue ties etc.
8. Try a Probiotic supplement. Recent studies suggest that low counts of intestinal lactobacilli may play a role in colic and have documented improved symptoms after treatment with Lactobacillus reuteri . BioGaia probiotic drops have been well researched. And effects were dramatic in breastfed infants but were insignificant in formula-fed infants.5
9. Consider whether it might even be just normal newborn baby behaviour, as your little one adjusts to life outside the womb? Are they much more settled if you hold them? Wear them? Sleep near them? This is very natural and often the case.
10. Try natural herbal or homeopathic remedies. There are many available. Most of them have similar ingredients though so if not working.. move on.
11. Try applying warmth on baby’s tummy. And/ or tummy massage. Especially if upsets seem related to bowel motion frequency. Or lack of.
With tummy massage, make sure it’s firm enough pressure to have an effect on the intestines. Baby will let you know if it’s too much pressure. Clockwise direction massage, the “I Love U” technique and paddle wheeling (over the descending colon) can all help and there’s some good videos on YouTube to demonstrate.
12. Try Acupressure, especially on the points Liver 3:
and Stomach 36
13. Try Chinese Herbal Medicine, especially Bao He Wan granules. Available through your local Chinese Medicine Herbalist. There is no quality research to support this use however.
14. Hang in there! Most cases of colic stop at 3-4 months old. Soon your baby will be older and you’ll be through it!
Written by Dr. Elaine Hickman, B.H.Sc.TCM (Acupuncture), Cert.Cl.Ac. (Beijing)
Elaine has trained and worked in various settings, both in Australia and China. She has over 20 years experience in treating many health problems. Elaine loves to provide a health care experience for people that is respectful, effective, empowering and enjoyable. Elaine has particular expertise in Women’s Health, Children’s Health, Family Medicine and Wellness promotion.