Crying is how babies communicate. It often takes some trial and error to determine what will soothe a baby. The commonly accepted clinical definition of colic is the “rule of three”: crying for more than three hours per day, for more than three days per week, and for more than three weeks in an infant that is well-fed and otherwise healthy.1
Colic, which is not a disease, affects 10-20% of all infants. It is more common in boys than in girls and most common in a family’s first child. Symptoms of colic usually appear when a baby is 14-21 days old, peak at three months, and gradually dissipate within the next eight weeks. Episodes occur frequently but intermittently and usually begin with prolonged periods of crying in the late afternoon or evening. They can last from a couple minutes, to several hours.
What are the Symptoms?
During a colicky episode, babies’ bellies often feel hard and look swollen, and make a rumbling sound. Crying gets louder, dissipates, then starts again. Babies often grow rigid, clench their fists and draw their legs toward their body. A bowel movement or burp can end an attack. Most babies who have colic do not seem to be in pain between episodes.
Studies indicate that the breastfeeding mother’s diet can help alleviate symptoms. Pasteurized dairy and gluten seems to play a big part in symptoms, which lessen after the removal of the offending items from the mother’s diet.
What are the Causes?
- Digestive tract immaturity
- Food intolerances
- Hunger or overfeeding
- Lack of sleep
- Overstimulation resulting from noise, light, or activity
One food often given to infants that can cause trouble is fruit juice. Doctors at Miami Children’s Hospital evaluated the role of fruit juice in colic. They found that the colicky group was more likely to suffer from gas, sleep troubles, and increased crying time after drinking apple juice.
Recent studies suggest that low counts of intestinal lactobacilli may play a role in colic.
In a double-blind study of infants, supplementation of a standard milk-based formula with probiotic organisms (Bifidobacterium lactis and Streptococcus thermophilus) significantly reduced the frequency of colic, compared with the same formula minus the probiotics.2 Probiotics work by encouraging the growth of “friendly” intestinal flora, and promoting the development of a healthy immune system.
The breastfeeding mother will want to stay on a “low allergen diet” for several months. Some advisable “good” foods are: raw and cooked organic fruits and vegetables, organic brown rice, pastured meats and eggs, gluten-free products and goat milk products. Lots of soups are a very easy and wise choice during this time. Foods to stay away from include: pasteurized dairy, gluten and wheat products, caffeine and chocolate. Also, avoid soy formulas as these are highly allergenic.
Recommended Supplementation for Mom for Colic
1. VSL#3: The best probiotic for increasing beneficial bacteria.
Raises immunity and helps the liver stay clean.
Calming and soothing to the nervous system.
1. Wessel MA, Cobb JC, Jackson EB, Harris GS Jr, Detwiler AC. Paroxysmal fussing in infancy, sometimes called colic. Pediatrics 1954;14:421-35
2. Saavedra JM, et al. Long-term consumption of infant formulas containing live probiotic bacteria: tolerance and safety. Am J Clin Nutr 2004; 79:261-267.