Infant Colic – What Can You Do?

Colic can make the new parenting journey grueling!  What can parents and care-providers do?

Babies are said to have colic if they cry for more than 3 hours daily on a regular basis. The cry is often high-pitched and relentless, accompanied by a red face and rigid body. It often happens later in the day or evening. Nothing seems to soothe the baby. Research shows 10-20% of babies experience colic. It’s heart-wrenching and exhausting for care-providers. 

There are theories about what causes colic but no certain answers. Colic resolves in most infants by 3-4 months, which is the entire “4th trimester”, when we expect babies to sleep a lot and when new families are typically bonding and getting to know each other.

The first thing to consider is your baby’s health. Is your baby gaining weight and soiling diapers as expected? Check out the handy Best Start Chart for signs that feeding is going well. Watch for signs of illness that require medical attention, such as lethargy (limp baby), fever, diarrhea, forceful vomiting.   

Is there a chance your baby is overstimulated? Some babies get overwhelmed by a seemingly low level of sounds, sights, and attention. Others can’t get enough. 

If your baby is fed, dry, healthy and the usual soothing techniques (rocking, walking, warmth, fresh air, holding, breastfeeding, singing etc) don’t help, then suspect colic. Here are some suggestions that can help an otherwise healthy baby who has colic. 

  • Infant Chiropractic care, from a Chiropractor who has specialized training and experience. Over 90% of colicky babies show improvement! It’s gentle and nothing like adult adjustments. I’ve heard countless stories from clients who’ve seen amazing results after only one or two treatments from their local baby-chiro.
  • Consult with a Lactation Consultant. Suggestions to help with latch and positioning can make a big difference, especially if the colic is related to swallowing gas while feeding. LCs spot all kinds of little or big things that can be easily corrected. 
  • Infant massage. There are classes and videos demonstrating how to do infant massage for colic. This can help move gas along, colic or not.  
  • Homeopathic remedies such as Cocyntal. I used to run the Vitamin & Supplement department of a busy health store and this was one product I could never run out of for fear of the pleas from desperate new parents. Many of our customers swore by this remedy. 
  • Fennel tea is a natural remedy for digestive issues such as gas, cramps, flatulence. It helps with colic too. Ready-to-use fennel tea is sold commercially; just add boiling water and steep for 5-10 minutes like any other tea. It can also be made by boiling fennel seeds (5ml seeds per 250ml water; 1 tsp per cup) for 10-minutes in a covered pot. The breastfeeding parent can drink 3 cups daily. For babies being formula fed, cooled fennel tea can be given to the baby orally with a dropper, 3-5ml (½ – 1 tsp) three times daily.
  • Break the stress cycle, if there is one. Never punish or shake a baby who won’t stop crying. Take 10. While it might go against your instincts, it’s better to put your baby down in a safe place and step away for 5-10 minutes to breathe slowly and deeply and regroup. Colic is one of the hardest parenting issues! 

I worked with one family who tried everything to no avail. Both parents were loving and kind but exhausted, distressed, anxious and at the end of their rope. Finally, in desperation, they asked a relative to come and stay for 2 nights so they could go sleep at a hotel. They figured they could go home to care for their screaming infant again once they’d restored some energy. When they went back home the colic was over. Done. Never came back. Coincidence or an environment of stress responses cleared up? We’ll never know but they sure were relieved. This is an extreme example but sometimes we have to ask for help and try something we’ve never done.

Use of Herbs During Pregnancy & Lactation

Herbal medicine is specific category of health-care.  Many herbs, including essential oils, are safe and beneficial during the childbearing year, while others can be dangerous.  Pregnant women must be cautious with any remedies, especially during the first trimester when the fetus is most vulnerable.  There’s a lot of misinformation concerning herbs.  Here are lists of commonly used herbs that are considered safe and unsafe through pregnancy and postpartum.

Essential Herbal Tea for Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

Women have consumed infusions (tea) of Red Raspberry leaf and Nettle leaf through the ages for a healthy childbearing year, healthy reproductive organs at any stage of life, and to keep their skin soft and supple.  This blend is very high in easily absorbed minerals.  If no milk or sugar is added then this drink counts toward your daily water intake.

Drink 1-3 cups of Pregnancy Tea, hot or cold, daily through first 2 trimesters, and 3 cups during last trimester. 

Combine these teas in any ratio you wish, but the general recipe is:

  • 2 parts Red Raspberry Leaf
  • 2 parts Nettle Leaf
  • 1 part Horsetail Leaf (added for calcium & strong bones)
  • Optional: 1 bag or small scoop of lemon, berry/fruit teas (ensure no licorice), mint or lemongrass to change up the flavour.

A batch can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Red raspberry (Rubus idaeus)

  • Most commonly used and well-known pregnancy herb
  • Tones female reproductive system; also pelvic and uterine muscles
  • High amounts vitamin C, easily assimilated calcium and iron
  • Also vitamins E, A, B-complex, many minerals inc phosphorus and potassium
  • High mineral content helps tissues stretch, decreases stretch marks, helps prevent anemia
  • Lower rates of miscarriage and postpartum hemorrhage
  • Prepares body for labor. Therefore decreases pain and length of labor.  Doesn’t strengthen contractions but makes them more efficient.
  • Help expel placenta
  • Good for morning sickness

Nettle (Urtica dioica)

  • High amounts of virtually all mineral & vitamins needed for health
  • Especially high in A,C,E,D,K, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, sulfur
  • High amounts of chlorophyll (for energy and nutrients, vitamin K)
  • Nourish and strengthen kidneys; gently dislodge and dissolve any mineral buildup
  • Relax leg cramps and muscle spasms
  • Prevent hemorrhage after birth due to high vitamin K
  • Strengthens blood vessels, therefore good for hemorrhoid prevention
  • Astringent for hemorrhoids
  • Increases quality of breast milk

Other herbs high in easily-assimilated vitamins and minerals (alone or added to the above teas) include Horsetail a.k.a. Shavegrass (very high in calcium), Alfalfa and Kelp.

Several other herbs are safe during pregnancy and are tasty e.g. mint.  Some aid pregnancy related issues such as nausea, heartburn, cramping, and constipation to name a few.  These include but are not limited to ginger, chamomile, slippery elm bark, and fennel.  Consult a qualified herbalist with knowledge of pregnancy herbs before taking any.

By the way, this tea is healthy for the males in your life too, and is safe for all ages from infancy on.  It’s a lovely, mildly flavoured drink for the whole family.

Prefer pre-packaged tea?  Health stores and quality Mama/Baby stores sell pregnancy tea, e.g. Earth Mama Angel Baby “Third Trimester Tea” (which you can take in any trimester).