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Tips to Help a Colicky Baby

Infants and young babies with regular colic tug on our heart strings as they cry, sometimes endlessly, leaving us with few options to relieve it. Any parent with a child that has colic can become desperate to help stop the tears. Colic is most often caused by issues with poor digestion and elimination, although it can have no obvious reason; it is simply defined as long episodes of crying in infants. However, simple changes can help to eliminate the issue.

A baby with colic often has a buildup of pinching gas in the intestines causing unrelenting discomfort for hours, which can be daily, nightly, or just on occasion. For a breastfed baby, the mother should eliminate all garlic, onions, hard-to-digest vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts, dairy, and coffee. Eating a simple diet of turkey, rice, and squash can reduce certain food compounds in the breastmilk that upset the baby’s tummy. The mother can slowly introduce more variety and assess which foods, if any, are causing colic. For formula fed babies, a switch from cow’s milk or soy-based formula to a goat milk-based formula can eliminate colic. Natural remedies for colic caused by gas pains are easily found at a health food store. Gripe water, castor oil rubbed on the tummy in a gentle clockwise direction, or homeopathic Carbo Veg 30c used as needed can help relieve gas. Sitting the baby in a more upright position and keeping the baby out of the car seat where they can stretch their tummy can help, too.

Baby wearing, defined as using a soft wrap or specific baby carrier with the baby close to the body, can help reduce colic. Babies worn on the body, close to the chest, and in a somewhat upright position, will relax with the warmth and closeness of another body. It may need to be worn for very long time periods throughout the day in the early months, so a wrap that allows the parent’s arms to be somewhat free is necessary. Walking or bouncing the baby, or sitting with a baby wrapped on the parent while bouncing on a ball chair, all give the baby the same comfort and movement sensations found in the womb and help to relieve colic. It is also key for the person wearing the baby to stay as relaxed as possible in their body and with their emotions to provide comfort for the baby. The challenge is to remain calm with a baby that is very upset.

A baby with colic can be deeply frustrating for the parents, and the parents may often feel as if they are failing their baby. However, it can be a normal stage for some babies to experience colic. Working on diet choices, digestion, relaxation, physical closeness, and also taking breaks between caretakers if possible (to help relieve the anxiety and tension a colicky baby can produce) are important steps to take. If colic does not resolve, seek natural care options.

Dr. Sinsheimer is a naturopathic doctor with Optimal Health Center in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 568.2598.

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