• Infantile Colic
The mere thought of a colicky baby is often enough to strike fear in the heart of the parents of a newborn child. A baby with colic may cry for hours despite the parents' attempts at consolation; although the colicky phase will eventually end, it may seem like an eternity while it continues.
Colic is generally defined as excessive (frequently inconsolable) crying that lasts for more than three hours at least three days per week, continuing for at least three weeks; additionally, there must be no medical problem causing the crying.
Other symptoms frequently associated with colic include pulling the knees up towards the stomach, a hard and/or swollen stomach, and excessive gas. Crying occurs most often in the evening. Colic typically ends by the age of 4-5 months.
Colicky babies may be at an increased risk of abuse at the hands of exhausted and frustrated parents. Additionally, the parent may not properly bond with the child because of feelings of inadequacy and anger, leading to developing behavioral problems as the child grows.
No one knows for sure what causes colic, although there are many theories. One view attributes it to painful digestive cramps and/or excessive gas caused by allergic reaction to foods (such as milk). Another theory suggests that some babies may simply have a sensitive temperament, possibly compounded by a parental inability to respond to the infant's needs. Finally, what we call colic may just be an extreme version of normal infant crying, or an increased perception of normal crying by parents with less tolerance for it.
The antispasmodic and sedating drugs dicyclomine and dicycloverine appear to be effective for colic,
Principal Proposed Natural Treatments
A number of natural approaches to colic have preliminary supporting evidence.
Fennel Seed Oil
double-blind, placebo-controlled study
, 125 infants with colic were given either placebo or fennel seed oil at a dose of 12 mg daily per kg of body weight.
While these are encouraging results, confirmation by an independent research group is necessary before the treatment can be accepted as effective. Furthermore, the safety of fennel seed oil for infants has not been conclusively established.
For more information, see the full
Cow's milk can cause
As an alternative to standard cow’s milk–based formula, researchers primarily used hypoallergenic formula made from hydrolyzed (processed) whey or casein. Formula based on these sources of protein may be superior to those based on soy, because soy itself can cause allergic reactions in sensitive children.
If no improvement is seen through eliminating cow's milk, some experts recommend searching in the breastfeeding mother's diet for other potential food allergens, such as wheat, soy, or eggs.
It should be noted that most infants with colic are able to tolerate cow's milk protein as they get older, so neither the mother nor the baby are doomed to life without milk. Researchers propose that this might be the result of an immature digestive system; according to this theory, maturation of the digestive tract is the reason that colic usually disappears on its own in time.
Milk also contains lactose, a form of sugar that many adults can't digest (see the
Many doctors believe that the cause of colic is not physical; rather, that it results from a child's oversensitivity to stimuli in the environment.
Based on these theories, some authorities recommend counseling the parents of a colicky infant on appropriate coping strategies, including building a personal support system and occasionally leaving the child with a different caregiver to provide a respite.
Studies evaluating the effects of carrying a colicky child more, or using a motion-simulation device, have not found benefit.
Other Proposed Natural Treatments
A one week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 93 breast-fed colicky infants found benefits with a standardized extract of fennel, lemon balm
One controlled study found that use of a special type of bottle for bottle feeding (Dr. Brown's Natural Flow Baby Bottle) reduced colic symptoms.
In one small study, light needling at one acupuncture point on both hands was more effective than no needling among 40 infants with colic.
In Britain, a preparation called "gripe water" is widely sold for the treatment of colic.
The use of salt substitutes containing potassium have also been recommended, but they can be dangerous.
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49. Savino F, Cresi F, Castagno E, et al. A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial of a standardized extract of Matricariae recutita, Foeniculum vulgare and Melissa officinalis (ColiMil®) in the treatment of breast-fed colicky infants. Phytother Res . 2005;19:335-40.
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Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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