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Calming Colic


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.

Postnatal Depression can affect both mum and dad!

One of the most satisfying aspects of my counselling role with the Australian Breastfeeding Association is supporting new parents with their transition from couplehood to parenthood. When I think back to the birth of my first baby in 1998, I remember expecting life at home with a baby to be all rosy and wonderful but the reality was much different. While I loved my newborn son, there were many aspects of being a mum that got me down, like the extra weight I had gained, and the feeling that I was no longer a worthwhile member of society because I didn’t have a fancy job title or income.

And what I was feeling is not unusual for new parents. While society expects us to be happy after the birth of a baby, we can forget that most parents will find some aspects of life with a baby to be difficult. Many of the changes that come with parenthood can create a sense of loss and grief for both partners. Adjusting to these changes can cause some challenges and strong feelings – this is a normal part of becoming a parent BUT if there is a feeling of being consistently unhappy, distressed or anxious then it could be an indication of postnatal depression (PND).

We tend to think of PND as being a women’s problem but a surprising fact is men can also experience PND. It has been said that for every two mums suffering from it, there will be one dad. If one partner is depressed, this can put extra stress and responsibility onto the other partner placing them at risk of depression and anxiety as well. Some experts believe that PND is a MAJOR UNRECOGNISED factor in the breakdown of many relationships as the problems are often due to the depression rather than the relationship itself. If this is the case, then it would make sense for any couple contemplating separation or divorce after the birth of a child to consider being assessed to see if PND is contributing to any relationship difficulties.

And it can be hard to know if you have postnatal depression as you may find other excuses for the way you are feeling or resort to self-blame. Some may suspect they have PND but will find it difficult to admit it or seek help due to the stigma attached to mental illness. Even the most skilled health professional can miss a PND diagnosis as new parents put on a brave face and try to be happy and cheerful when they are with other people.

So how can you tell if you or a friend has PND? The PND support group PANDA lists the following symptoms for both women and men:

PND SYMPTOMS IN WOMEN:

Sleep disturbance unrelated to baby’s sleep
Changes in appetite
Crying – feeling sad and crying without apparent reason OR feeling like you want to cry but can’t
Feelings of being overwhelmed, out of control, unable to cope
Irritability
Anxiety
Negative obsessive thoughts
Fear of being alone OR withdrawing from family and friends
Memory difficulties and loss of concentration
Feeling guilty and inadequate
Loss of confidence and self-esteem
Loss of libido

PND SYMPTOMS IN MEN:

Tiredness, headaches and pain
Irritability, anxiety and anger
Loss of libido
Changes in appetite
Feelings of being overwhelmed, out of control and unable to cope
Tendency to take risks (affairs, gambling, reckless driving etc)
Changes to sleep patterns, especially a lack of sleep
Feelings of isolation and disconnection from partner, friends or family
Withdrawal from intimate relationships and from family, friends and community life
Increased hours of work as part of the withdrawal from family
Increased use of drugs or alcohol instead of seeking treatment for depression

SUPPORTING SOMEONE WITH PND:

There is a wonderful new parent wellness support group in Brisbane called Peach Tree who encourage expectant parents to ask two important people in their lives to become a “Parenting Partner”, someone who can monitor their emotional wellbeing. What a fabulous idea! New mums often tell me that they get lots of attention from friends and family when their baby is first born but then everyone just expects them to “get on with things” after that. It is so important to have that special someone who can check in on the new family’s emotional wellbeing – whether it is days, weeks, months or even years after the birth of a child.

If one partner is diagnosed with PND, it is important for family and friends to support BOTH partners (the non-PND partner often has to pick up the extra workload of running the household and caring for the baby).

TIPS FOR FRIENDS AND FAMILY WANTING TO PROVIDE SUPPORT:

Learn more about PND so you can understand what they may be going through
Ask the couple how you can help
Offer to look after the baby/children
Offer to help around the house “Here, let me unpack the dishwasher”
Let them know you are there for them, even if they don’t feel like talking
Offer to take them for a regular walk or to a support group like the ABA or Peach Tree

TIPS FOR PARTNERS WANTING TO PROVIDE SUPPORT:

Support their treatment and ensure they have ongoing consultations with their medical team and attend regular support group meetings.

Try not to take it personally – it is the illness that is causing your partner to be withdrawn and/or negative.

Reassure your partner that you understand if they are not interested in sex (low libido is a PND symptom and a side effect of some antidepressants) – it would seem the number one advice is to not take it personally!

PND is an illness, it does not help to say “snap out of it” or “get over it”, if it was that easy they would! Let them know you understand that they feel down but reassure them that with the right support and treatment that they will recover.

Encourage them to express their feelings and not bottle them up.

Encourage and support their achievements, no matter how small, comment in a positive way about their relationship with the baby, notice the good things they do and let them know.

Be aware that they are not being lazy if the housework or other jobs are not done (fatigue and lack of motivation are common PND symptoms). Rest is important for recovery.

Reassure your partner that you are there for them as they may fear that you will leave the relationship.

If a mother with PND decides to wean her baby, provide your support for this as her emotional wellbeing is the most important factor. However, it is also important to support her to keep breastfeeding if this is what she wants to do – for some women, breastfeeding is the only thing they feel they are good at.

Go for walks together, exercise can help them to feel better.

Help with the housework and babycare as much as you can.

Accept help from family and friends, allow them to help with housework, shopping, cooking dinner or picking up takeaway food.

Pay for household help if finances allow it.

Take care of yourself while you are supporting your partner as the extra stress can lead to exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed. Remember that having a partner with depression can put you at risk of developing it so find someone you can talk to about your concerns and feelings and don’t feel that you have to do everything yourself, get a friend or family member to take over if you feel you need a break.

Always trust your instincts if you become concerned about your partner or the wellbeing of your children, seek medical assistance if there is talk of harming themselves or the baby, strange thoughts or speech patterns, doing something dangerous, behaviour that seems odd or out of character, severe change in mood, withdrawal from all social contact, extreme despair or obsession with morbid ideas or statements like “they’d be better off without me”

Avoid blaming yourself as PND is an illness, you wouldn’t blame yourself if they had been diagnosed with diabetes.

Thankfully with early detection, support, counselling and treatment, it is possible to recover from PND and enjoy life again.

Fussy eaters

A common concern expressed by parents at my clinic is how can they get their fussy child to eat a healthy and varied diet.

From 6 to 12 months this can be easy as babies are willing to try new foods, flavours and textures especially if you allow your child to play with their food. Forget the special pureed food, forget feeding them with a spoon (only to have them turn their head), let your baby explore, feel and play with their food and they will taste it and grow to love that food.

A few years ago, one of my clients told me she was worried that her 10 month old daughter wasn’t interested in solids. She would refuse the food that her mother tried to feed her. After implementing some of the suggestions I made, this mum sent me a beautiful thank you card with this message:

“Dear Inez, Thank you so much for all your support. It seems my daughter likes the food that my husband and I eat more than something I prepare especially for her. She also loves fresh fruit more than stewed fruit. So I have decided to take it easy and am more relaxed about introducing solids than before. Thank you again for your kindness. My daughter and I have been helped so much by your advice.”

So what were my suggestions that helped this 10 month old to eat real food? All I suggested was that she let her daughter play with her food and to spend meal times together as a family sharing food. I gave her Gill Rapley’s BabyLed Weaning website which explains the concept including safety tips to prevent choking hazards. I also emphasised that eating together as a family encourages babies and children to try new foods. Babies tend to become fussy eaters if they have their meal on their own and away from the family table. They don’t get to see the variety of food that their parents are eating which would normally make them interested in trying those foods.

The concept of letting babies touch and explore food as a way to introduce solids is not new and is something that families have been doing for a long time (especially when there is more than one child in the family and a lack of time to prepare special baby meals). Babies who have their first taste of food this way tend to eat a healthy and varied diet. It’s not until the toddler years that they may start to reject new foods without tasting it. Don’t you love those assertive toddlers that want to do everything themselves and do things their way?

Remember that toddlers learn by copying you, their siblings and playmates. They may start to reject new foods but this should pass if they see other people around them eating a variety of foods. Research has shown that you may need to offer a new food up to 12 times before a toddler will accept it. Avoid making food a battle but if food rejection is becoming an issue offer them a choice between two or three food options to appeal to their growing independence. If your toddler likes to help around the house, ask them to help prepare their own food as a way to encourage healthy eating.

Toddlers may be reluctant to eat well if they are tired, unwell or anxious, distracted by toys or a new environment, had enough to eat beforehand or filled up on too much juice or milk, and if there is no mealtime routine or the mealtime experience is negative.

Holding on: is your child afraid to do a poo?

Some toddlers can go through a stage where they refuse to pass a bowel motion. Initially, it can be due to a fear of making a mess but it can get worse as constipation sets in and the bowel motion becomes painful to pass which causes the child to hold in their poo even more. The good news is that this toileting problem can be treated with homeopathy.

The first time I came across this problem was when my son was 3 years old and he would scream and become distraught whenever he felt he needed to pass a bowel motion. His bowels motions then became so hard and large which made the problem worse because going to the toilet was excruciating for him. Like most parents with this problem I tried increasing the fibre in his diet, laxatives and reward charts to no avail. The only thing that worked for him was homeopathic treatment. The first remedy prescribed for him acted like a laxative which would expel the poo even though he resisted it. It wasn’t until we tried him on a higher strength of the same remedy that the fear of passing a bowel motion resolved. He is now 12 years old and has never had a toileting problem since.

The reason why homeopathic treatment works for this issue is because it can calm the emotions and allow the toddler to pass a bowel motion without fear.

I recently treated a 4 year old girl who had developed a fear of passing a bowel motion for the past year. Her mother said the problem had progressively got worse and she is now holding on and refuses to pass a bowel motion to due intense fear. Over the past year they have tried suppositories, reward charts and increasing dietary fibre without success. She was even hospitalised after being constipated for a week and refusing to go to the toilet. As you can imagine, this problem was a great source of worry for her parents who had been trying everything to help their little girl for over a year.

Fortunately, within a month of homeopathic treatment she was able to go to the toilet with no problem and had become less fearful about things in general. Her father said he wished they had tried homeopathy in the first place.

So if your child has this problem, find a registered homeopath and give it a try. And don’t give up if the first remedy doesn’t help as it could take a couple of consultations to find a homeopathic remedy that will be effective for your child.

Fever- friend or foe?

I am often contacted by parents with young children who are anxious about their child’s fever. We’ve all heard the horror stories of fevers causing convulsions and this often creates fear when our children develop a fever. Most parents will try to reduce the fever with a dose of panadol or nurofen. However, a fever is the body’s way of fighting infection and using medication routinely to reduce it can make it harder for the body to do its job. In fact, studies have shown that suppressing a fever through regular use of panadol/nurofen can prolong some viral illnesses. This makes sense because the fever is needed to fight the virus or bacteria.

I recently attended the emergency department at the Mater Children’s Hospital in Brisbane and the walls were covered in posters reassuring parents that fevers are not dangerous. One such poster states:

Fevers are not dangerous

A fever is simply the body’s way of fighting infection – whether it is caused by a virus or bacteria. They do not harm the body or brain in any way. The body has a temperature control centre which prevents the temperature from reaching a dangerous level. If your child seems happy and comfortable enough there is no need to treat the fever – in fact, studies have shown that suppressing a fever through regular use of panadol/nurofen can prolong some viral illnesses.

Poster @ Mater Children’s Hospital Emergency Department Oct 2009


This information is not intended to substitute advice or instructions from your doctor or health care professional. It is based on the clinical guideline Feverish illness in children which is available at www.nice.org.uk