Colic is a condition found in babies from just after birth until four or five months of age with inconsolable crying, irritability and what seems to be pain or cramps in the abdomen. Not all crying babies have colic, but babies with colic will have intense periods of crying. They may stiffen their body, or double up like they are in pain. The crying can be very distressing to parents who feel helpless to do anything about it. The most important thing to remember is that it is not your fault. Any baby can have colic.
What causes colic?
The causes are not known yet. Some experts believe that colic is related to the immaturity of a baby’s digestive system. Other think that a baby’s nervous system and inability to handle the constant sensory stimulation that surrounds them cause a breakdown at the end of the day, when colic most often occurs.
There has been research suggesting that a breastfeeding baby who is switched to the second breast after five to ten minutes may be taking in large amounts of “foremilk” which is high in lactose and can ferment in the bowel causing colic, wind and frequent loose bowel motions. Having an overabundant milk supply can also cause this problem.
Some research has shown that some breastfeeding babies seem to react to the cows’ milk products in their mothers’ diets. When these mothers removed all dairy from their diets, some babies’ colic stopped.
Whatever the cause, colic is one of the most upsetting conditions that parents of new babies face.
Calming colic with homeopathy
Homeopathic medicine can resolve colic and stop the crying within a few minutes to an hour. Repeated doses may be needed if the symptoms return. Over the counter homeopathic preparations may only provide short term relief. The most effective homeopathic remedies are the ones prescribed by a homeopath.
Some common homeopathic remedies to help relieve colic
There are many homeopathic remedies that can help relieve colic with the best results if the remedy is individually prescribed by a homeopath. If the baby is unable to tolerate milk the homeopath may choose to prescribe Aethusa, Magnesium phosphoricum, Calcarea carbonica; or Lycopodium. If there is frequent burping, and the baby seems to feel better after burping, Carbo vegetabilis is likely to be needed. For colic in extremely fussy, irritable babies, especially if they arch their backs and are inconsolable, Chamomilla may be indicated. If baby doubles over with the colic or brings his knees up to his chest, then Colocynthis or Magnesia phosphoricum may be prescribed. If the pain seems intense and unbearable and the baby bends his back backwards, then Dioscorea could do the trick. For colic with excessive bloating and gas, particulary if the baby seems to be worse after ingesting milk then Magnesia phosphoricum may be effective.
Other things that may help your baby
Here are some suggestions for other things that may help. If you decide to try one of the suggestions stick with it for a few days. If it doesn’t work, don’t be discouraged just try something else.
• For breastfeeding babies, allow baby to finish the first breast first to maximise the amount of fat per feed. If you suspect an overabundant milk supply offer the same side for two or three feeds while monitoring the other breast for engorgement (express for comfort if needed to relieve any engorgement). Note: one-sided feeding for two or three feeds on one breast should be used with caution in babies who have a history of slow weight gain.
• Breastfeeding relaxes and distracts a baby. It also causes waves of digestive movement from throat to bowel and this can relieve the discomfort of colic. Some babies who have been recently fed, find sucking on a relatively empty breast comforting.
• Posture feeding. Many mothers have found that colic improves if they “posture feed” especially for the early morning feed. Attach baby in the usual way while sitting, then lie back with your baby on your tummy so your baby has to suck “uphill”. Sit up again towards the end of the feed to ensure good drainage of the milk ducts.
• Hold your baby in a more upright position for feeding and directly afterwards.
• If you have a strong let-down reflex your baby cannot swallow and may splutter and choke during feeds. If often helps if you can express some milk before the feed so the first gush subsides before you feed your baby.
• Watch your diet. If you suspect food intolerances eliminate any suspect foods to see if it makes a difference. The most common culprits are dairy foods and wheat. Research has also shown that cutting out sugar and increasing protein can improve colic significantly.
• If bottlefeeding, try different types of bottles and nipples that prevent air from entering your baby as he drinks. If you suspect a dairy intolerance consider switching to a goat milks formula or a hypoallergenic one.
• Raising your baby’s bed at the head end. This is a commonly used method in hospital nurseries for “remote control” burping. This helps any bubbles of wind to rise.
• Rocking and cuddling.
• Walking with your baby rocks him naturally.
• A baby sling can give you some hands free time while carrying your baby close.
• Rhythmical, continuous noise from household appliances, having a radio on a fuzzy station, or a loud “shushing’ in your baby’s ear.
• Music can soothe a baby.
• A dummy can be useful for babies who gain comfort from sucking but whose constant sucking at the breast is causing an oversupply of milk. Many babies can be comforted this way provided they are not hungry. Note that it is recommended that a dummy not be introduced until after the early weeks, until breastfeeding is well established.
• Exercises and massage. Bicycling action with your baby’s legs may help expel bowel gas. Gentle massage can help relax his body.
• A warm bath or shower with a parent, may help a baby to relax at any time of the day.
When should you call the doctor?
Simple colic is not life-threatening nor does it lead to any serious illness. It usually passes on its own in a matter of months. If the baby doesn’t gain weight, vomits excessively, or has persistent diarrhea, medical attention should be sought to determine the cause of the problem.