Author: Christin Sander, Health Writer
Colic is a condition experienced by young infants that starts around one month of age and usually stops by four months, although it can last as long as a year. Colic is characterized by frequent crying, for lengthy periods with no discernible reason. The crying often starts around the same time of day, usually in the evening, and can last for hours. Babies with colic are often inconsolable, leading to heartache and frustration for parents.
Scientists are unsure of the exact reasons for colic, however there are some common themes. Studies have shown babies who are not breastfed are twice as likely to develop colic. Cow's milk has also been linked to the condition, and many babies who experience it are removed from cow's milk and placed on alternative formulas. If they are breastfed, the mothers are encouraged to avoid cow's milk and dairy products.
Colic may not be due to intestinal discomfort alone. Some studies suggest overstimulation and exhaustion also contribute to the condition. With so much uncertainty, it can be difficult to know how to help a suffering infant, but there are several natural remedies that are very effective at providing relief.
Stress appears to play a significant role in the condition and overstimulation may worsen the problem. When colic starts, move to a room that is quiet, has low light and few distractions. Try laying the baby on a warm water bottle and applying gentle massage to the back.
It's important for parents and caregivers to remain calm themselves. If long hours of crying bring you near the breaking point, take a few moments to walk away and regroup. Babies can sense the tension and stress of their caregivers and it can upset them further.
The slow, rhythmic movement of a car ride or gentle rocking in a chair can often calm a crying infant when nothing else seems to work. Put your baby in an infant car seat and place him on or near the dryer or dishwasher. The noise and gentle vibrations sometimes mimic a car ride and can help soothe stress. Never leave a child unattended when doing this.
Lactose intolerance may be a contributing factor to some cases of colic. Lactase is a natural enzyme that can help babies and adults alike digest lactose, a protein found in cow's milk that can be difficult to digest. Lactase drops can be added to bottles to ease digestive comfort.
Change Your Diet
If you are breastfeeding, keep a food journal to track what you are consuming. There are several foods that filter into the breast milk that may be hard for your baby to digest. Common culprits are chocolate, dairy foods, coffee (even decaf) and certain fruits and vegetables that promote gas like apples and broccoli. Tracking what you eat and how the baby reacts can help eliminate triggers in the milk.
If you bottle feed, you may need to switch nipples and bottle types. Bottle fed babies sometimes need to be burped more often. If your baby spits up frequently, try holding him in a more upright position when feeding and burping.
Chamomile has been used for centuries as a remedy for colic for good reason. Chamomile is safe for infants, gentle and soothing to the digestive tract. It also promotes feelings of calm and acts as a very mild sedative. To make chamomile tea for an infant, steep the tea for five minutes and cool to room temperature. Give one or two ounces of the tea in a bottle.
There are homeopathic remedies that are safe and gentle that can help ease digestive distress and promote calm. Mag Phos (6C) is a homeopathic pain reliever that treats cramping and is suitable for all age groups, including small babies.