About 1 to 5 babies develops colic. Colicky babies cry hard and continuously, at about the same time each day, at least 3 days a week, but they are otherwise healthy. Often, nothing you do seems to help them feel better. Although colic can be upsetting for both you and your baby, it usually does not last long. It generally begins at about 2 weeks of age and goes away by the fourth month.
Signs and Symptoms
All babies get fussy sometimes, but colic is more severe. Colic symptoms include:
What Causes It?
Babies with colic often look like their stomachs hurt, and some stop crying after they pass gas or have bowel movements. But no one knows what actually causes colic. Possible causes include:
What to Expect at Your Doctor's Office
The doctor will ask if your baby is eating well and gaining weight or has diarrhea, fever, or unusual stools. If you are breastfeeding, the doctor may ask about foods you have eaten. If the doctor thinks your baby has colic, you can work together to find ways to make your baby feel better.
The doctor will also encourage you to take care of yourself, take a break or get help if you are afraid you will harm your baby. Remember that colic usually disappears between 4 to 6 months of age. If the treatments you choose do not work, your child's pediatrician may check for other problems, such as a digestive problem or allergies.
No drugs are recommended, although simethicone (Mylicon), an over-the-counter gas remedy, may be helpful.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Eliminating foods that cause gas and using supportive herbal or homeopathic therapies may help your baby's colic. In some cases, colic may be caused by a hidden food allergy and you may need to switch formula or food. A qualified natural health care provider can help you find nutritious hypoallergenic foods for your child. If you are breastfeeding, eliminating foods that may cause gas or allergies from your diet may help. In addition, playing soft music, rocking your baby, or using "white noise" (for example, a dryer or even a vacuum cleaner) may help soothe your infant. Placing your baby in a dim, quiet room may help calm the baby. Use alternative therapies only under the supervision of a trained provider, and always inform your baby's pediatrician of any dietary changes or therapies you may be considering. If you are using any supplements for your infant, make sure they are from a trusted source and a brand the doctor is familiar with.
Nutrition and Supplements
Probiotics. Some research suggests that these "friendly bacteria" may help reduce symptoms of colic. More research is needed to know for sure. Acidophilus (especially Bifidus spp.) can be given to both a breastfeeding mother and a bottle-fed baby. For a baby, make sure you use acidophilus products specifically formulated for babies; DO NOT use adult formulas. Some acidophilus products may need refrigeration. Read the label carefully and follow the directions.
Herbs are a way to strengthen and tone the body's systems, although many herbs that may be safe for adults may not be suitable for infants. As with any therapy, you should work with the baby's doctor before starting treatment. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, or teas) or glycerites (glycerine extracts). Because of the alcohol content, do not give tinctures (alcohol extracts) to infants unless directed by your baby's doctor.
Never give herbs to an infant unless your pediatrician tells you to.
Few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic remedies. However, a professional homeopath may recommend one or more of the following treatments for infantile colic based on their knowledge and clinical experience.
Viburcol, a proprietary homeopathic medicine often used in Europe, can be very effective for acute colic. It contains Chamomilla, Belladonna, Dulcamara, Plantago major, Pulsatilla, and Calcium carbonicum Hahnemanni in homeopathic dilutions.
Although there is only preliminary scientific evidence that chiropractic may lessen crying in colicky babies, chiropractors frequently treat colic with a form of gentle spinal manipulation specially designed for infants. Usually treatment requires 3 to 4 visits over a 2 week period.
Warm baths may help relax and soothe colicky infants. Add 3 to 4 drops of essential oil of lavender or lemon balm to the water at least 10 minutes before bringing the child to the bath. Take great care not to get undiluted essential oils on the skin or in the eyes, mouth, or nose.
Gently squeezing the acupressure point between the baby's thumb and finger (on the webbing) may help to calm a fussy child.
Rubbing your baby's abdomen may help him feel better and get rid of gas. In one study, infants who received an aromatherapy abdominal massage using lavender oil had fewer colicky symptoms compared to those who did not receive a massage.
Use whatever is safe and works. And remember that your baby will outgrow the colic in a few weeks or months. If you need a break, ask someone you trust to watch your baby for a little while.
Studies show an association between childhood migraine and infantile colic. Preliminary studies suggest an association between infantile colic and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Follow up closely with your physician.
Never shake your baby. This can cause serious or fatal brain damage. If you are feeling overwhelmed, try the following steps:
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Review Date: 4/27/2016
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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