I’ve had two babies who were hard to settle in their first few months because of colic and it is estimated that up to 25 per cent of infants suffer from it.
It usually starts between the third and sixth weeks after birth and goes away by the time the child is three months old.
Meanwhile, you are likely to have a baby who cries intensely more than three hours a day, usually in the late afternoon or early evening, has a hard abdomen to the touch, and may draw their legs up to their stomach and/or clench their fists.
Here are some natural remedies to try:
Look at what you are eating if you are breastfeeding. A young baby’s system often can’t cope with some foods, so try cutting out the following foods and see if things improve: chocolate, coffee, spicy foods, curries, garlic, onions, alcohol, broccoli, cabbage, beans, legumes, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, grapes, peaches, plums and pineapple. I’ve also heard citrus can be a problem.
Dairy Products: These can sometimes be a problem if you are breastfeeding, so try to cut them out for a few days and see if that helps.
Change Formula: If you are bottle feeding, consider changing the formula from a cow-based one to goat or soy. Talk to your GP or Plunket nurse about that.
Herbal Tea: Drink herbal teas so that the benefits can pass through your breast milk into your baby. Fennel, lemon balm, peppermint and chamomile are all worth trying – separately, not together! If you are bottle feeding or breastfeeding, you can try diluting 1 tsp cooled fennel, chamomile or lemon balm tea with 1 tsp cooled, boiled water. Give your baby a teaspoon of this mixture before a feed.
This balances intestinal flora, so take some yourself, either in yoghurt or in tablets you can buy at a health store. I wouldn’t give them to a young baby, although an older baby who is on solids could have some acidophilus yoghurt if they are having tummy troubles.
Lay baby down on your knees and remove its clothing. Gently massage the abdomen in small, clockwise circular movements, then turn baby over and massage the centre of the back, again in small, clockwise circles.
Your baby may not like the massage, but persist.
4. Essential oils
I don’t usually recommend essential oils for babies under three months, but they can help calm a colicky baby in mild doses.
Mix 1 tsp almond oil with 1 drop lavender and 1 drop chamomile essential oils. Put ¼ tsp of this mixture into the bath. Be sure not to get any in baby’s eyes.
5. Feeding too fast?
Is he or she gulping their feed too quickly? Try lying down when you start feeding so they don’t get a rush of milk to start with. Or, if bottle feeding, try a smaller hole in the teat so that they don’t get a rush of air and milk when they’re sucking hard.
Make a cup of ginger tea and cool it with an ice cube until it is just warm. Dip a flannel in the tea and put it on baby’s stomach. Cover with a hot water bottle, which is also just warm to keep the heat source.
Put your baby in a swing or in the car seat and go for a ride or take turns in the family to carry the baby around the house with a gentle, rocking motion.
It’s a bit like the old-fashioned idea that a hot, angry mother ruins her milk, but updated. Often you can spend so much time worrying about the colic that you end up stressing both of you out.
So have a nice, warm bath with 10 drops lavender essential oil and 10 drops chamomile oil in it before you do the feed that is causing the colic issues. This will usually be in the evening. Turn on some soothing music and settle into a comfy chair while you feed. It just might make all the difference.