I remember when my first daughter was born and she just wouldn’t settle in the early evening and would cry for hours on end no matter what I did!
It is difficult for any parent to hear their child cry, especially for a first time parent when you don’t have the experience of having had another child nor the confidence to know what to do! Often parents are told that their baby will “grow out of it in a few months”, which they probably will, but it is not very helpful when you are trying to deal with a fractious baby for hours on end every day!
Colic is the medical term for excessive, frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy and well fed. It is a poorly understood yet common condition, and affects around one in five babies (NHS Choices).
Please note – If you are worried about your baby’s excessive crying – see your GP so that other possible causes can be ruled out.
If your baby has been diagnosed with colic, or there is a strong suspicion that your baby has colic, the question is….Can nutrition influence colic and is there anything that can help with colic?
Breast or formula??
I often get asked if babies fed on infant formula are more likely to develop colic than breast fed babies? But studies have shown that breast fed and formula fed babies both show similar prevalence and amount of crying associated with infant colic.
What about the type of infant formula used?
This is a controversial area…for most infants it is not recommended to chop and change their formula feeds as this has not been shown to be helpful in reducing colicky symptoms. However, in those babies who have a family member with eczema/asthma/allergies of any kind, there may be a benefit to a 2 week trial of a special formula called ‘extensively hydrolysed formula’, which means that the protein in the formula has been broken down into smaller pieces.
What about the diet of a breastfeeding mum?
The evidence for whether a breastfeeding mum’s diet influences colic is conflicting. Conclusions from very high quality studies (called systematic literature reviews) indicate that there is limited evidence to suggest that if a mum excludes certain allergenic foods from her diet this may reduce colic symptoms in babies younger than 6 weeks of age. (Allergenic foods include cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soya, fish and wheat).
Please remember that if a mum decides to try an exclusion diet she must make sure are getting enough protein, energy/calories, calcium and vitamin D and to stop the exclusion diet if there has been no observed benefit in 2 weeks. I would advise anyone thinking of undertaking an exclusion diet to seek the help of a Registered Dietitian
See www.bda.uk.com for where to find a Dietitian near you.
So….what could help reduce the symptoms of colic?
Probiotic drops are a possible treatment option. Results from 2 recent studies show that the use of Lactobacillus reuteri probiotic drops may have a role to play in reducing the symptoms of colic in breastfed babies. Babies given the probiotic drops spent significantly less time crying than the placebo group.
More research is needed until this can be routinely recommended but I think it is a promising area of research for babies with colic and as probiotics generally have a very good safety profile and few if any side effects, it could be worth a try.
Probiotic drops are available without a prescription – ask your Pharmacist.