What can be done to help with colic?
David Adam Perlstein, MD, FAAP
Medical Editor/Author, MedicineNet
First of all, remember you are not alone. This is a very common problem (up to 25% of all babies suffer from colic). Discuss your concerns with your pediatrician and talk to other parents or relatives who have had similar experiences. Also keep in mind that colic generally occurs in big, healthy, active, vigorous babies who are great eaters and who grow very well. Sickly, poor-feeding, unhealthy babies or babies with significant underlying problems may well be cranky, miserable, and unhappy; however, these infants tend to be this way most of the time, whereas the baby with colic generally has episodes at a very predictable ("set your clock by the beginning and end") time of the day.
Here are some suggestions:
- Do not overfeed! Stick to your baby's regular feeding schedule of timing and amount of milk taken, as measured in ounces in the bottle-fed baby or in minutes on the breast in the breastfed baby.
- Breastfeeding mothers should avoid milk products (You don't have to drink milk to make milk.), caffeine, onions, cabbage, beans, broccoli, and other gas-producing, irritating foods. Be sure that if your baby is taking juices, that they are very diluted, or just offer plain water. If babies are really thirsty, they will drink it.
- Avoid juices. (Young infants should not be drinking juice anyway.)
- In the formula-fed baby, try changing to a formula containing whey hydrolysate (such as Good Start) or try a low-allergy formula (such as Nutramigen, Alimentum, or Pregestimil). Some research suggests that making these changes can result in a decrease in the number of episodes and duration of symptoms in some infants. It is worth the expense of a week's trial to see if the formula is at all contributing to the colic.
- Take a break! When the anxiety, fear, and tension get to be too much (or perhaps an hour before!), try to have someone else watch the baby, even for an hour, and leave the house. Try to keep a positive attitude.
- Try walking the baby in a front-pouch-style carrier with his legs drawn up and pressure off of his belly.
- Though there is no clear evidence that physical stimulation helps, many parents swear by it. Some babies seem to be soothed by rhythmic, steady movements, like rocking gently, or by sounds, like running the vacuum or having the clothes dryer within earshot. (Never leave a baby unattended near the dryer, as there is a serious risk of injury.)
- Wrap the baby firmly in a comfortable blanket ("swaddling").
- Medications, such as simethicone (Phazyme, Flatulex, Mylicon, Gas-X, Mylanta Gas), and other homeopathic treatments have not conclusively proven to be more effective than placebo and should be avoided unless prescribed by your infant's medical provider. Hyoscyamine, an antispasmodic medication used to treat adults with various intestinal ailments, has been associated with serious side effects in young infants.
- Recently, there have been some interesting results using certain probiotics (dietary supplements containing live bacteria or yeast and used to aid digestion). It is important to discuss these options with your provider prior to using them.