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The Cause and Treatment of Newborn, Infant and Baby Colic

by T.A. Lawrence B.Sc, CIRM, CPMP

What are the Symptoms of Colic?

It is not uncommon for newborn babies to go through periods when they appear abnormally irritable or seemingly cry for no reason. However, if you suspect your baby is suffering from colic, you may look for the following symptoms:

y y y y y

cries vigorously for long periods, despite efforts to console symptoms occur around the same time each day or night, often after meal times, and usually ending as abruptly as they began shows signs of gas discomfort and abdominal bloating has a hard, distended stomach, with knees pulled to the chest, clenched fists, flailing arms and legs, and an arched back experiences frequent sleeplessness, irritability and fussiness

In most cases, colic is the worst pain a baby has thus experienced. It is usually manifested as an acute abdominal pain with intense spasmodic cramping, but since colicky babies cannot describe exactly what distresses them, it is hard for parents to know the precise cause of their distress. Infantile colic is most common in the first few weeks to four months of an infant's life; rarely does it endure past six months of age. Pediatricians often use the "Rule of Three" to diagnose colic: "A baby that cries for three or more hours per day, at least three times per week, within a three month period". Wess, et al., "Paroxysmas fussing in infancy." Pediatrics 1984:74:998. About 25 percent of babies worldwide meet the official "Rule of Threes" criteria for medical diagnosis of colic.

What Causes Infants to become Colicky?

While there are many theories about colic there is no single consistent cause that experts all agree upon. However, a lot of evidence suggests that colic may be caused in different ways in different babies. There appear to be several contributing factors that, when occurring in combination, are likely to result in colic pain and discomfort:

Newborns have an immature digestive system that has never processed food. The gastrointestinal system is literally just learning to function. Muscles that support digestion have not developed the proper rhythm for moving food efficiently thought the digestive tract. Furthermore, newborns lack the benevolent bacterial flora (probiotics) that develop over time to aid digestion. This explains why almost all infants outgrow colic within the first six months Certain foods eaten by lactating mothers contain volatile chemicals and allergens that in a small percentage of infants result in colic discomfort and digestive upset. Through lactation, trace elements of cruciferous vegetables and other gas producing foods may be passed via breast milk to baby and cause gas and bloating. Infants often swallow air while feeding or during strenuous crying, which increases gas and bloating, further adding to their discomfort.

Since infants nervous systems are so immature, it is possible for them to get overloaded with unfamiliar sights and sounds. Infants that are easily overloaded often experience more severe colic, fussiness, and difficulty sleeping later in the day or at night. In general, the more activity (errands, visitors, T.V., phones, etc.) in baby's day, the higher the chances of baby becoming colicky and fussy.

What Treatment Options are Available to Relieve Baby Colic?

Colic, and the months of distress and sleeplessness that it brings to both infants and parents, can leave you feeling frantic, frustrated, worried, exhausted, confused, guilty and inadequate. Foremost, it is essential to build and maintain a loving bond with your infant. If your baby experiences colic that does not appear to dissipate, you will probably be looking for a safe, natural and effective colic remedy to ease your baby's suffering. There are several treatments available for baby colic. As always, you should consult your pediatrician first before giving baby any medications, remedies or supplements. Homeopathic remedies can be an excellent choice for treating infant colic symptoms. Homeopathy is safe and completely allergen-free and side-effect-free. There is only one such liquid formula on the market. Colic Calm Gripe Water is available online and in select health food stores and health practitioners' offices. Colic Calm has a success rate of over 90% in treating baby colic. Many parents and caretakers have been relieved to find an all-natural remedy. The unique homeopathic formula works within minutes, so it is only given on an "as needed" basis. Thousands of satisfied customers have also reported that it works wonders for bloating, pressure, stomach cramps, hiccups, teething and even acid reflux. It is also extremely effective on gas created during introduction of new foods into babies' delicate digestive tracts. A combination of homeopathic ingredients are used to treat the multiple symptoms of colic as depicted below. There are other gripe waters on the market that are sold as "dietary supplements". Be careful! These are not regulated by the FDA and fall under loose dietary supplement guidelines. Generally, the main ingredients of these products include:

Sodium Bicarbonate (a.k.a. Baking Soda). Sodium bicarbonate is an alkali (antacid) which alters the naturally occurring pH of baby's stomach acid. It may counteract some discomfort caused by acid reflux in cases of acidic stomach. However, changing the delicate pH balance in babys system can cause over-alkalinity and exacerbate a colicky condition. Furthermore, sodium bicarbonate is also absorbed into the bloodstream and thus can have unwanted side effects. Studies have shown that sodium bicarbonate can deplete and interfere with Folic Acid and Iron, indicating that it may affect the function or absorption of both. For this reason, sodium bicarbonate containing products are not to be consumed by children under 5 years of age, as stated clearly on antacid and baking soda boxes. Antacids always warn against extended use: Do not use for more than 2 weeks. According to some doctors, sodium bicarbonate can cause an imbalance in babies electrolytes, which can also lead to serious problems. Please note that antacids do interact with or prevent the absorption of many medications including, but not limited to, aspirin, tetracycline, penicillamine and ulcer medications (Zantac, Pepcid, Axid, Tagamet). According to Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine, antacids (sodium bicarbonate) should not be given to young children (up to 6 years of age) unless prescribed by their doctor. Since children often cannot describe their symptoms well, doctor visits are advisable before giving any antacids to children. The condition may require other treatment. In such cases, not only will antacids not help, they may actually lead to unwanted side effects and/ or worsening of condition. Medline also warns against taking sodium bicarbonate with large amounts of milk or milk products. To do so may increase the chance of side effects.

Essential Oils and extracts (dill oil, clove oil, fennel extract, ginger extract, etc) are used by all other gripe water brands. There are known safety issues with herbal oils and extracts. Many experts believe they are not to be taken internally by adults, let alone infants. Please be well advised of all possible side effects before giving essential oils to your baby, no matter how small the concentrations.

If you are sure your infant is suffering from colic, there are concrete steps you can take to relieve the symptoms of your colicky baby. A variety of therapies include changing baby's environment and diet to direct internal treatment. As always, consult your pediatrician about the range of alternative treatments available. There are safe, natural and effective alternatives to pharmaceuticals and artificial chemicals. Homeopathy has been used for over 200 years to safely treat a variety of nervous and digestive disorders including colic. Remember that babies are just getting accustomed to this world and, as they grow older, their colic will eventually subside. Their digestive systems will learn how to function well. In the first three months of life, babies are not well-equipped to calm themselves. Self-calming is a skill that develops slowly over time and at different rates in children.