What Every New Mom Should Know About Colic

 

There are many reasons babies cry.  

But today we'll talk about colic.  Colic comes from the Greek word Kolikos which means, suffering from the colon.  Basically colic is pain in the gut.   It's important to keep in mind that your baby is new to everything.  You can think of your baby as an extremely sensitive sponge because everywhere your baby is he/she is soaking in all of the smells, sounds, sensations and energies around him/her.  And that includes the sensations in their digestive track.  Their previously dormant digestive system all of a sudden becomes responsible for their sustenance and development.  It's working full force, 24/7 and unfortunately some baby's have digestive issues like Colic.  Colic is pretty common, affecting  10% - 20% of all infants. 

"Three things parents should remember about the term colic. Colic is a description, not a diagnosis.  Colic often has a cause.  Replace the term colic with hurting baby."  - Dr William Sears.
 

A peaceful, quiet and safe place

It's incredibly important to have a peaceful, quiet and safe place for your little sponge to recharge.  Try to keep it low key in your home.  I know that can be impossible if you have other little ones running around.  Remember that all babies cry or are fussy.  It's their way of communicating to you that something needs to change, they may be overstimulated, they may be tired, they may be hot or cold, they may want to be close to you and held,  they may have a wet or dirty diaper, they may be in pain or they may be hungry.  They do give cues.  Check out Baby Behavior 101 for tips on how to read your baby's cues and deal with a crying baby.

Crying is meant get your attention and long periods of crying can be torturous, exhausting and frustrating.  First of all if you are experiencing extended periods of unconsolable crying... I'm so sorry!  I truly am.  There is nothing worse.  Unfortunately no one knows exactly what causes colic but often these baby's are reacting to a sensitivity to cow's milk directly (formula) or through their mother's milk.  


Signs of colic (hurting baby)

  • Colic can start in the first two to three weeks after birth and peaks between four to twelve weeks of age.  
  • It usually happens at the same time everyday, usually in the late afternoon or during the evening but it can happen at any time of the day.  
  • It lasts at least three hours a day and occurs at least three days a week. 
  • Continues for at least three weeks.
  • Seldom lasts longer than three months.  

Here are the physical signs to look for:

  • Clenching fists
  • Drawing legs up to abdomen
  • Have a distended belly
  • Flailing arms
  • Arched back
  • Stiffening as if in pain
  • Passing gas
  • Grimacing

 

Possible causes: (may be more than one)

  • Immature gastro-intestinal system
  • Sensitive nervous system
  • Excessive gas or over-feeding 
  • Formula intolerance
  • Reaction to foods the breastfeeding mother has eaten
  • Over stimulation

 

This is a great idea

(This is from the book, The Portable Pediatrician by William Sears, M.D.)

1.)  Keep a colic diary - record your baby's outbursts.

  • What triggers the outbursts of crying and what turns it off?
  • How often does it happen and how long does it last?
  • What time does it happen? Does your baby awaken in pain at night or are they daytime occurrences?  (night waking in pain is usually a medical cause of baby hurting).
  • Are episodes getting better, worse, or staying the same over time?
  • Do the episodes consistently seem to be related to feeding: method of breastfeeding, type of formula, type of bottle?  What changes in feeding techniques have you tried?
  • Does your baby spit up frequently? How often?  With how much force?  How soon after feeding?
  • If breastfeeding, do you notice a correlation between what you eat and how much your baby fusses?
  • Does your baby seem to have gut problems? Is he/she bloated?  An air swallower?  Gassy?
  • Record your baby's bowel movements.  How frequent are they?  Are they hard or soft?  Do you notice a change in frequency or characteristics of the stool in response to a change of feeding?
  • What changes or comforting techniques have you tried?
  • What consistently works and what doesn't?

2.)  Video record your baby's episodes so you can share it with your pediatrician.

3.) Schedule a medical evaluation.  Don't settle for a 5 minute squeeze in appointment.  Schedule an extended appointment and bring in your journal, video and let the doctor know how much the crying is bothering you. 

 

Common Colic (Hurting Baby) Causing Foods in Breastmilk

Pay special attention to what you’ve eaten in the previous 24 hours to help you sleuth out any food sensitivities.  Eliminate any foods that you have identified.  

The most common culprits are: 

  • Dairy products 
  • Soy products 
  • Peanuts 
  • Wheat 
  • Eggs (especially egg whites)
  • Corn 
  • Cabbage family veggies (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) 
  • Caffeine and Chocolate (which can also keep baby awake longer!) 
  • Spices and foods with strong flavor for example garlic

 

Clues your baby is sensitive to what you're eating

  • Baby keeps pulling away from the breast during feeding and crying as if in pain
  • Baby seems fussy or gassy after feeding
  • Baby's painful episodes happen within a few minutes after they have eaten
  • Baby's bowel movements are mucousy, watery, or sometimes explosive
  • A circular red rash is visible around baby's anus. (burn-like rash)
  • Baby's behavior significantly improves after mother's elimination diet

 

What if your baby is on formula?

Usually formula fed babies who are suffering from food sensitivities are sensitive to one of the following:

  • Cows milk protein in the formula 
  • Lactose sugar in the formula

Dr Sears recommends the following:

  • Talking with your baby's pediatrician about switching to a pre-digested formula like Alimentum or Nutramigen.  These formulas have broken down the cow's protein so it's easier to digest and less allergenic.  Or using a formula that says "sensitive" or "gentle".  Just know that these formulas are not a pre-digested as Alimentum or Nutramigen.
  • If lactose intolerance is suspected (bloating, gas, and diarrhea) try a lactose free formula.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend soy formula for colicky babies. 1/3 of all babies who are allergic to dairy protein are also allergic to soy (plus most soy are GMO's). 

 

Possible remedies:

  1. Hold your baby skin-to-skin several times each day.
  2. Overfeeding can cause gas and discomfort.  Give your baby small amounts of formula or breastmilk every 2 to 2 1/2 hours.  Feed them twice as often 1/2 as much.  A baby's tummy is about the size of their fist.
  3. Motion in any form.
  4. Walking.
  5. Baby swing.
  6. Rocking in rocking chair.
  7. Rocking side to side while standing.
  8. Ride in the car playing soothing music or in a stroller.
  9. Carry baby in infant sling.
  10. Over-the-counter gas-relief drops (discuss with MD).
  11. Singing, humming.
  12. Take a break, let someone else try for awhile; babies sense your tension.
  13. White sound nearby (running water, vacuum, clothes dryer, hair dryer).
  14. Commercially available recordings with strong beat designed to simulate intrauterine sounds (heart beats).
  15. Swaddle your baby snugly when crying.  Check out Baby Behavior 101.
  16. Undress your baby and allow complete freedom of motion.
  17. Avoid over-stimulation from noises, lights or motion especially around 4:30 pm and after.  Lots of babies get fussy at this time.  Turn lights down and keep environment as calm as possible. 
  18. Distract the baby with different sounds, sights or places.  Be careful because if they are overstimulated it may make it worse. 
  19. Place gentle pressure on your baby’s abdomen by placing the palm of your hand on the baby's belly button while your fingers and thumb encircle the baby's abdomen. 
  20. Hold baby in the "colic hold" (facing floor, supported by your arm, heel of your hand putting pressure on the abdomen).
  21. Hold baby over your shoulder or over your knees.
  22. Bicycle your baby’s legs while they lay on their back.
  23. Do the colic curl.  Hold baby in a sitting position facing forward in front of you and fold your arms under his/her bottom.  Lay baby back so his/her head and upper baby are on your chest with his/her body curled slightly upward in front of you. OR reverse it so baby is facing you eye to eye, baby's feet should be up against your chest as you hold him. 
  24. Take an infant massage class. Or watch and try the following massage techniques.  Round the clock massage.  Scooping the sand massage.  I Love U massage.  
  25. Keep a food diary to determine if a particular food bothers your baby (takes 4-6 hours for most foods to reach baby but baby's can still react to something you ate 24 hours before).
  26. Consult a Lactation Consultant.  She may suggest feeding on only one breast per feeding or other techniques to balance the "foremilk" and "hind milk" your baby obtains while feeding.
  27. Contact your physician for other medical explanations and solutions.
  28. If you are breastfeeding - Drink teas of catnip, chamomile, cloves, dill, fennel, ginger, and peppermint.  Try the Tummy Ease tea recipe down below. 
  29. Take one drop of fennel essential oil in a quarter cup of water or milk, three times a day.  Or you can chew on the 1/2 tsp. of fennel seeds 3x a day.  It tastes like licorice.
  30. Take probiotics - ask your pediatrician about giving your child probiotics.  A dose of 5 billion to 10 billion cfu is often used in young children. Studies show that the probotic Lactobacillus Reuteri improved colicky symptoms in babies. Make sure the probiotic you get contains this strain of probiotic. 
  31. BATH TIME - To help relax the spasm, add ¼ tsp of the following mix to a warm bath.
  • 1 teaspoon almond oil
  • 1 drop of lavender essential oil
  • 1 drop of cardamon

Oil will float on surface, rub over baby’s tummy while in bath.  But be very careful when you take baby out of tub because he/she will be very slippery.

32. Try a homeopathic remedy.  Homeopathic remedies can work wonders. 

For infants - place 3 pellets in 1/2 glass of filtered water.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Stir 10 times. If you are using hard pellets they will not dissolve but they will medicate the water.  You can also crush pellets in between two spoons, first and then place in water.  Give 1/4 tsp (can use a dropper) of the medicated liquid to equal 1 dose.  OR crush pellets and place a pinch of powder on baby's lips.  Also mother can take the remedy if she is breastfeeding. 

  • Cococynthis 30c-  This is for severe colic.  The baby screams with gas pains, is doubled over and pulls knee up.  The pain is better with firm pressure. 
  • Dioscorea 30c- when baby arches whole body back
  • Chamomilla 30c-  is for the "impossible, cranky, irritable" baby who moves around in agony.  Tend to draw legs up and abdomen bloated.  Stools can be green, slimy and smell like rotten eggs.
  • Aethusa 30c - useful when baby shows colic symptoms from milk intolerance, for example spit up large curds of milk.  
  • Nux Vomica 30c - for a fussy baby who angry, irritable, and sensitive to noise and light.  She is worse at 3 - 4 am.  She doesn't want to be touched and arches her back.  Usually accompanied by constipation and straining. 

My favorite basic family homeopathic kit is Hylands Kids Kit and for books on homeopathy check out my section on homeopathy books

33.)  Hot water bottle - (not to hot, it should be warm) If your baby is relieved with warmth, try a wrapped hot water bottle on the tummy. 

34.) Try Dr Harvey Karp's 5 S's technique from the Happiest Baby on the Block.  

How to do the 5 S's Technique

Here is how to swaddle a baby


Tummy Ease Tea by Aviva Rohm, M.D.

To prepare these herbs as a tea, mix ½ ounce of each of fennel, lemon balm, and German chamomile together in a clean, dry glass jar or plastic bag. Take 1 teaspoon of the mixture and place it in a glass mug or French press.  Cover with 1 cup of boiling water and steep for 10 minutes.  Strain the herbs and put the tea into either a bottle if the baby takes one, or use a medicine dropper to give the baby several teaspoons at a time.  The tea can be sweetened with a teaspoon of maple syrup; do NOT give honey to babies under 1 year old — it can cause infant botulism.


Don't forget to check out.... Baby Behavior 101 for tips on how to read your baby's cues and deal with a crying baby.


Resources:

Lactation Education Resources

Feder MD, Lauren., Natural Baby And Childcare. Hatherleigh Press, Long Island City, NY. 2006

Sears MD, William., Sears RN,  Martha., Sears MD, Robert., Sears MD, James., Sears MD, Peter.  The Portable Pediatrician. Little Brown Co. New York, NY. 2011

Photo credit: ISTOCK 14935227