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Alternatives to treating colic?

All babies cry for a reason, mostly when they are hungry, tired or need a fresh diaper. But, if you've ever been around a baby with colic, you know it is altogether a different situation.

Colic is an attack of crying due to what appears to be abdominal pain in early infancy. It is common — occurring in approximately 20 percent of all babies during their first few months of life — and it is extremely frustrating.

Colic normally appears just a few weeks after birth and can last for three or four months. Babies with colic usually exhibit some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Crying intensely and furiously, even when normal needs are met.
  • Fists may be clenched, abdominal muscles may be tensed and knees may be drawn up.
  • Sleep may be irregular and interrupted with episodes of crying.
  • Feeding also may be interrupted and irregular with episodes of intense crying. However, the amount the baby eats will not be less.

There are few treatment options for colic, but in a recent study, several nutritional supplements and other complementary and alternative treatments were examined. The use of fennel extract, herbal tea (especially those with chamomile, licorice, fennel and balm mint) and sugar solutions were somewhat effective in relieving the symptoms of colicky babies but the results, overall, were inconclusive. It was determined that additional research is necessary.

In the meantime, if you are dealing with a colicky baby, you can resort to a few "tried and true" methods until he or she outgrows it. These methods include:

  • Swaddling a baby during a crying episode.
  • Sit the baby upright when feeding to reduce the amount of air swallowed.
  • Use more frequent, but smaller, feedings.
  • If breastfeeding, avoid tea, coffee, spicy foods and alcohol.
  • Use a pacifier.
  • Go for a walk with a stroller.
  • Give the baby a warm bath or gentle massage.

Perhaps the best tip is this one: Have someone else help you with the baby so you can have some private time away. This may help calm your anxieties and provide for a more peaceful atmosphere overall.

June 2011