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Calming a Colicky Baby?

How can I treat my baby's colic?

Answer (Published 2/26/2003)

Revised 3/12/2010

My colleague, pediatrician Russell Greenfield, M.D., co-author of Healthy Child, Whole Child, (Harper Resource), tells me that the first thing parents of a fussy newborn should do is exclude other explanations for the baby's crying. Make sure the infant isn't running a fever, isn't lethargic, is eating normally and isn't having any trouble breathing. Your pediatrician will also want to exclude GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), which can occur among babies although it is much more common among adults.

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The good news about colic is that what you see is what you get - a fussy, crying but otherwise perfectly healthy baby. Some doctors think that this irritating phase may be part of normal development. Between five and 28 percent of infants develop colic, usually between the ages of two to six weeks. Most outgrow it by the time they're three to four months old.

Here are Dr. Greenfield's suggestions for dealing with colic - and with the frustration it can breed among parents:

  • Try massage therapy, a great way to enhance bonding between parent and child at a time when colic may be interfering with the bonding process.
  • Rock your baby rhythmically.
  • Turn on music or try the clothes dryer or vacuum cleaner. Sometimes the 'white noise' they produce helps.
  • Try cranial osteopathy or homeopathy; both may help and are safe forms of treatment.
  • Try herbal remedies such as cooled chamomile or fennel tea. You can get tea bags at the health food store and give the baby one to two ounces at a time, no more than three to four ounces per day.
  • Ask your pediatrician about treatment with probiotics such as L. reuteri. A study published in the January, 2007, issue of Pediatrics showed that probiotic therapy may help relieve colic in some children compared with others treated with simethicone.
  • Switch to a cow's milk-free formula; or, if breastfeeding, change the mother's diet to affect what is entering breast milk (in some cases, a food sensitivity may play a role).
  • Swaddle your baby - it provides a nice snug feeling.
  • Find a way to relax - try breathing exercises or other relaxation techniques to lower your frustration level.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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