Colic can be a bit of a dreaded word for new parents, wondering and worrying if and when it will hit. But the good news is that not all baby’s get it! So it might never be a thing that you have to navigate with your little one.
Colic is also a bit mysterious, no one knows what actually causes it. It might be triggered by and the result of trapped wind, constipation, food intolerance/allergy, or the digestive system muscles not working properly yet.
The muscles in the digestive system are different to the muscles in the rest of the body as they are circular, rather than long. This means that they work in a different way. In the throat the circular muscles are triggered by swallowing; but in the small and large intestine, where the body does most of the digesting, the muscles contract and relax all the time in a squeezing motion (peristalsis). This squeezing motion helps to move the digested food (faecal matter) along the intestines until it’s ready to be excreted out, and your baby does a poo. In the beginning the peristalsis can lose its rhythm and be a bit irregular as your baby learns how to digest food, and the muscles get stronger. Until your baby is born, you, the mother, have done all the digesting for your baby and the nutrients crosses the placenta into the umbilical cord and feeds your baby directly from the umbilical cord blood. Once they are born and start to breast or bottle feed, their digestive system has to learn how to digest food. The irregularity in the peristalsis can cause wind to get trapped and can also contribute to constipation which can show itself in colic. But as your baby grows and develops, so do their muscles and the nerve communication strengthens meaning that digesting food becomes much easier for them.
Food allergy can cause/contribute to colic, but it normally has a more severe, immediate reaction that you notice quickly with symptoms like swelling of the mouth/face, a red itchy rash and vomiting/diarrhea. Food intolerance on the other hand is much subtler and builds with time. It also shows itself in places other than just the digestive system with conditions like eczema and/or psoriasis, ear infections, sinus infections and being very phlegmy. It can also impact on bowel movements and cause constipation and diarrhea. Food intolerance tends to increase gas and bloating which makes your baby colicky.
If you are breastfeeding, your baby can react to food particles coming through in the breast milk that can also cause/add to colic. Bottle fed babies can also react to formula causing colic. But don’t panic! There are things that you can do at home, and when out and about if your baby is uncomfortable and upset because of their tummy. You can also show your partner some of the tips, so they can also help out and help to calm your baby.
- The first is so important and so obvious I know, but it’s always worth saying it. Try to keep as calm and relaxed about it as much as possible. Whilst it’s miserable seeing your baby upset and in pain, the more you stress, the more they pick up on that stress which in turn stresses them.
- Carry them in a sling as much as possible – keeping your baby upright, especially after feeding helps digestion and can help stop gas and wind. The pressure of your body/the sling (depending on if they are forward facing in it or not) against their tummy helps stimulate the digestive muscles and increase nerve communication. This means that the muscles will work more effectively and reduce trapped wind and constipation by getting the peristalsis more regular.
- Massage over the small and large intestines (the area we tend to call our tummy underneath our ribs) in a smooth, regular circular clockwise movement when looking at your baby. The pressure of your hand on their skin helps encourage the muscles to work better. The pressure also helps reduce the pain your baby may be feeling and increases the production of serotonin the happy hormone. (Baby massage also helps reduce post-natal depression and anxiety, so it’s a very good thing for you to be doing!). The pressure you use, should be similar to checking the ripeness of a soft fruit or avocado.
- Depending on their age and size, you can also hold them with their body lying along your forearm, with their head near your elbow. Holding them like this often means that the heel of your hand is pressing against their tummy which helps reduce pain and stimulates the muscles.
- If you are using formula, change brands with different ingredients and see if that helps.
- Make sure that when your baby feeds, they aren’t also inhaling and swallowing a lot of air.
- If you are breastfeeding, try and cut down on the following (I’m so sorry!):
- gas producing foods – broccoli, cabbage, beans
- Spicy food
- If you are breastfeeding, try the following herbal teas (Pukka is a great brand of high quality teas and they do nice digestion blends as well):
- Peppermint tea (don’t drink more than a mug or 2 a day as it can reduce milk flow)
- Ginger tea
- Liqourice tea
- Fennel Tea
- If you are breastfeeding, make sure you:
- Drink lots of water
- Eat regularly
- Eats lots of vegetables
About: Katie discovered Naturopathy after truly realising the importance of diet and its effect on health and mood. She says “What attracted me to Naturopathy is that it treats the whole person and the cause, not the symptoms, which is why so many of us don’t feel better. This is a more natural and appealing way to help people be well and healthy in today’s hectic world.” Katie specialises in the family, keeping mother and baby healthy and happy from pregnancy through to birth and beyond. She does this through a combination of her Naturopathy training as well as pregnancy and post-natal reflexology and baby reflexology. She also teaches baby massage which is a wonderful way to include the father especially in those early days when the baby is more dependent on the mother.
For more information or to book an appointment please contact – Katie Ruane 07903 985898 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Clinics at :
2 Wimpole Street, London W1G 0ED – See on map
193 Whitecross Street, London EC1Y 8QP – See on map
This article first appeared in Me & My Baby Magazine, so if you have enjoyed reading ‘Colic, why it can happen and useful Naturopathic tips to help your baby’ please sign up to download our FREE Me & My Baby magazine for other great articles on exercising with baby, baby yoga, great gadgets (you didn’t know you would need) baby shower shopping and weaning your baby,