Colics are an abdominal discomfort in otherwise healthy babies, accompanied by loud crying and restlessness. Typically, it all starts around the second week after the birth and lasts up to the fourth month. Colics are due to the larger amount of gases in the gastrointestinal tract. Colics affect 26% to 50% of all newborn babies. However, in some cases they may appear after the sixth week. In babies the gastrointestinal tract isn’t fully developed, which means that the microflora sometimes is not enough to digest the food. Also, there is a deficiency of the lactase enzyme, which breaks down lactose to monosaccharides. Due to this deficiency babies cannot break down lactose in breast or formula milk. It has been proven that the increased production of gases is due to the insufficient digestion of lactose in healthy babies and secondary fermentation. This is called physiological lactase deficiency, it is typical in babies up to 3 months old and causes colics.
The babies diet – breast or formula milk, the mother’s regime, as well as the baby’s sex may impact the condition. Some scientists believe breastfed babies suffer less from colics compared to formula-fed ones, because when eating from a bottle, the baby swallows more air. It is believed that boys have a lower pain threshold and their colics may be more severe. Also, the mother’s regime, hygiene, lifestyle and habits (such as smoking) are of importance. It has been proven that babies of mothers who smoke suffer more severe colics. If the mother consumes food that causes gases, the baby will have more colics. It is recommended during this period, to exclude beans, cabbage, onions, garlic, spicy and hot food, as well as chocolate, from the mother’s menu. Also, be careful with nuts and wheat, and cut down on caffeine (stick to one cup of coffee a day), as well as milk (no more than two glasses of milk a day).
Symptoms of colics:
- a sudden onset of extreme crying in healthy, well developing babies up to the age of 3 months (or under 5 months);
- crying that amounts to more than 3 hours a day;
- when the crying periods happen 3+ days a week for more than 3 weeks;
- the baby clenches its hands in fists and pulls its legs towards its tummy, it obviously feels discomfort and is irritated;
- the stomach ache occurs mainly in the evening and is relieved when the baby passes the gases. The baby’s stomach is bloated
Behaviour in case of colics:
During breast or bottle feeding allow the baby to burp. Thus less air will go to the gastrointestinal tract. Before allowing the baby to suckle from the second breast, it is recommended to make a short break and straighten up the baby for about 2 – 3 minutes. One or two hours after the feeding session it is recommended to massage the baby’s tummy. Gently draw wide circles with your hand across the tummy. Start from the right side (baby’s right, not yours!) of the inguinal region and end on the left. You may do “ride a bike” leg exercises or bend the baby’s legs and gently push them against the tummy, release and repeat. Placing the baby on its tummy also stimulates the passing of gases. Baby carrying – tummy against the parent’s forearm, baby’s head in the parent’s hand and baby face looking to the side (this way the tummy is warm and gently pressured by the parent’s forearm) – can have a soothing effect. Products like cushions filled with cherry pits/grain are available on the market. Slightly warm them up and place them on the baby’s tummy. You can also do this with a warm towel. Make sure they are not hot, just pleasantly warm! They also relieve the baby’s discomfort.
You can also find various solutions for colics in your local pharmacy. There are preparations that include simeticone which helps the release of gases accumulated in the gastrointestinal tract. Dosage: 25 drops before or after each feeding session. Other preparations contain the lactase enzyme and help break down the milk. Dosage: 4 drops before each feeding session, it may be mixed in breast or formula milk. There are also natural products containing anise, dill, mint or glycerine. Dill oil help dissolve the built up gases. Anise oil stimulates the digestive enzymes. Mint has a calming effect. Glycerine helps the food pass through the gastrointestinal tract and stimulates the bowel movement. All preparations are suitable for the age 0+ or at the moment the colics begin. The simultaneous use of different preparations for colics is not recommended.