When your baby seems perfectly healthy, has no obvious signs of distress and yet cries continually, they may be suffering from colic. Colic is prolonged bouts of excessive, frequent crying for no apparent reason, although some abdominal discomfort is thought to accompany it due to the way many babies draw their knees up when they cry which would indicate trapped wind. These episodes can be very distressing for both baby and parent, and can last for several weeks.
When are the typical signs of colic?
Normal crying typically starts when your little one is about 2 weeks old. When babies develop colic, it's usually between 2 and 4 weeks of age. About 1 in 5 babies end up suffering with colic. Other symptoms typically include:
- Crying inconsolably for long periods of time.
- Some babies with colic experience bloated tummies, however not always.
- Babies with colic often pull their knees up to their chest and go red in the face
- Although there may be other causes, babies with colic often have a distinctive, high-pitched cry.
One thing you might not have thought about is the foods you're putting into your body. Breastfeeding mothers can normally eat whatever they want, however some newborns are intolerant to certain foods. The essential criteria for a good post-natal diet is to eat foods that are soothing, comforting, and nutritious. Slow-cooked foods, such as soups and stews, are recommended, as is avoiding too much raw food and limiting meals consumed straight from the refrigerator or freezer. Anything too harsh that passes through the mother's milk could harm a baby's developing gut. Colic-causing foods can enter your breast milk and upset your baby as early as two hours after you eat, with potential irritants being:
Milk, cheese, yoghurt, and ice cream are examples of dairy products. Cow's milk is known to be a main source of diet-related colic. Cow's milk proteins quickly enter breast milk, which is usually a positive thing because it familiarises your baby with these proteins early on, setting them up for when they’re weaned. Colic can, however, be caused by a sensitivity to cow's milk.
If you feel this is the case, try avoiding dairy products for 7-10 days to see if you notice a difference. If your baby's behaviour hasn't improved, gradually reintroduce the food again. If you see a difference and are concerned about your calcium intake, consult a nutritionist about different ways to get calcium, such as through leafy greens, broccoli, edamame, sardines, figs, oranges and calcium-fortified products.
Soft drinks, chocolate, coffee, tea, energy drinks, and some medicines all contain caffeine, and if you consume enough of it, your baby may develop colic. Many mums find that giving up caffeine can produce instant positive changes to their baby’s behaviour.
Theres a distinct taste in your breast milk after you’ve eaten a spicy dinner. This is because traces of spice have found their way into your milk supply. This is fine for most babies and helps them get used to new tastes, but for others, even the tiniest amount of spice can be enough to make them uncomfortable. If you've ever had heartburn after eating spicy food, this is considerably more likely to be the case.
Grains and nuts
Fats from cereals, nuts, seeds, avocados, and olives are essential for keeping your baby's skin healthy, although they can occasionally induce colic. Wheat, corn, peanuts, and soy are the most typical culprits.
You've probably experienced the unpleasant side-effects of a meal high in gassy vegetables like broccoli, onions, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage. Gas can cause a lot of discomfort in the stomach, and if your baby is particularly sensitive to it, eliminating gassy foods could be the answer.
Tracking down colic-causing foods
Determining whether the food you eat could be causing your baby’s colic is achieved with a simple three-step process:
Step 1. Keep a record
You can develop associations between food and discomfort by keeping track of what you eat and when and how long your baby experiences colic episodes. Keep track of any changes in your baby's behaviour, such as fussiness, weeping, bloating, constipation, or diarrhoea, nocturnal wakings that aren't explained, or reddening around the anus.
Step 2. Eliminate foods
You can now rule out the suspect source after establishing a correlation between food and behaviour. Try to avoid this food for 10 to 14 days then check to see whether your baby's colic symptoms are lessening or disappearing. Return to step one if nothing has changed. Continue to step three if the symptoms improve.
Step 3. Challenge the result
If your baby's symptoms have gone away, cautiously reintroduce the source to test it. If the symptoms return within 24 hours, remove this meal from your diet temporarily. Continue to challenge the food supply at regular intervals until you've determined it's safe to eat again. Most babies are only temporarily intolerant of certain foods, so declaring a meal off-limits may unnecessarily deprive you and your baby of a vital source of nutrition.
Maintaining an anti-colic diet
To help reduce any chance of colic, there are a number of foods that you can limit or avoid during the six weeks leading up to birth and the 2-3 months that follow. These include berries, grapes, stone fruit, strawberries, mangoes, cabbage, tomatoes, lentils, garlic, pineapple, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cucumber, radish, cauliflower, raw onion, strong herbs and spices, powdered yeast and stimulants (tea, coffee, chocolate and alcohol).
There are also some foods that will encourage a healthy gut and can help prevent symptoms of colic. These include apples, pears, asparagus, carrot, celery, kale, corn, bananas, papaya, celery, beetroot, pumpkin, zucchini, mushrooms, teas (chamomile, dandelion, fennel and cardamom), bone broths and apple cider vinegar.
There is no recognised “cure” for colic, although you may see some reduction in symptoms if you use a trial-and-error strategy. You may find that one thing works or that it is the consequence of a combination of circumstances, but be prepared to wait it out. Your baby will grow out of it eventually, and having a baby with colic has nothing to do with your parenting. Colic can affect any infant at any moment, and although it's natural to feel frustrated and upset, you should never feel responsible for your child's suffering.