Infant colic, a condition notorious for the unrelenting screaming and crying of young infants, is not a new thing. For centuries families have been driven to distraction by the shrieking and crying of their newest members. Commonly parents are plagued by feelings of helplessness and hopelessness as they are unable to sooth their suffering baby’s plight. My first born suffered from colic and on occasions he would scream so loud, and for so long, his voice would go hoarse. So with first hand experience on what it is you go through when your child has colic, I would like to offer you some Chinese medical advice.
Colic can affect both full-term and premature babies, with premature babies having a greater chance of being affected by the condition. Colic is on the rise in this country and this can be due to a number of reasons including complications during delivery, the rise of the average age of first time mothers and bottle feeding.
Babies are born with very weak digestive systems. Basically the organs in charge of digestion and assimilation of food, such as the stomach and the intestines, are immature and cannot effectively perform their functions. This leads to a buildup of gas and acid which in turn produces terrible pain. Typically as the digestive system matures the number of colic attacks decrease. However, the time it takes for your child to be colic free varies from weeks to months, and for desperate parents reducing this time is crucial.
In traditional Chinese medicine colic is said to result, not only from the weak digestive system an infant is born with, but a sensitive nervous system. The transition from life in utero to life in the outside world is a traumatic event, especially if there are complications during birth. Having an awareness of this
and easing the transition will help your baby’s nervous system adjust as quickly as possible. Not all babies react to the indigestion with distress, only the ones with a sensitive nervous system will react in this way.
These are some home remedies you can use to sooth your baby’s nervous system, strengthen their digestive system and help ease episodes of colic.
Create a nurturing environment
The baby’s room should be clean, warm and quiet. Please ensure the room has plenty of fresh air and curtains that dim the light to allow sleeping both during the day and at night.
Keeping a baby’s stomach area warm is very important. If a baby is cold their nervous system will be stressed and this is what we are trying to avoid. The opposite is also true, if the baby is too hot they will feel uncomfortable and irritable. Dress your baby appropriately for each season.
Babies like adults have favorite sleeping positions. Experiment with your baby and find the position she feels most comfortable in.
The 4 S’s stand for: Swaying, Sucking, Shhh and Soft music
When you are sleep deprived and exhausted your nerves are on end. The same thing is happening to your babie’s little nervous system. Soft, rhythmic swaying is one way to calm their tired nerves. Allow your baby to suck on a finger or a pacifier, this is the best way for them to self sooth. Making soft Shhh sounds will have the same effect,that together with soft and rhythmic patting on the back can calm very effectively. Some families use soothing music and white sounds such as water to help relax and calm their babies.
Brands of Formula
If your baby is on formula try a few different brands. Some formulas are better tolerated than others and you may need to experiment, but please consult with your pediatrician first.
Topical Ginger Application
Peel some raw ginger (available in most supermarkets) and place in a blender, using a cheese cloth extract the juice and place in a cup. Using the pads of your index and middle fingers, gently massage a few drops of ginger juice on the stomach area of the infant. Massage with downward strokes from the solar plexus to the belly button. You may also put some drops of ginger juice in the baby’s formula or water.
Steep a tea bag of organic peppermint tea in 8 oz.s of hot water for 5 minutes, allow this to cool. Mix the tea with formula on a 1:4 ratio tea to formula. This can be used at every feed. The same infusion of tea can be made with chamomile, fennel and dill.
Papaya or Pineapple Digestive Enzymes
These can be purchased at any good health food store. Crush one tablet until it is pulverized and mix with the baby’s formula.
Massage Your Baby’s Feet
Using your thumbs, massage the sole of your baby’s feet before bed time. Remember to keep an even and smooth rhythm to the massage, as this is key in helping your infant relax. Rub feet at least 100 times.
If you are breast feeding your diet is crucial to your baby’s health. You must avoid caffeine, chocolate, spicy foods, beans, pulses, and heavy meats. Basically you want to keep your diet as simple as possible and ingest foods which are easy to digest and do not produce wind. You may also drink peppermint, chamomile, fennel, and dill infusions, as they will pass straight into the breast milk and help your baby.
Finally consistency is my most sincere advice
Newborns should be fed on demand and there is often no rhyme or reason to their demands, but gently creating a routine will help your baby settle faster. Try to keep consistent bed and nap times. Have little rituals that give your baby a sense of when each event is going to take place, such as a bath and massage before bed time, or a walk before nap time. With time your baby will relax, she will know what comes next and will not get agitated and over-tired. The main objective is to keep your baby’s nervous system as calm as possible.
If you have taken all this advice, put it into action and your baby is still suffering from colic, please bring your child to receive some acupuncture and herbs. We have treated children as young as one or two weeks old in our clinic with great results. Pharmaceutical intervention is rarely needed but in cases of severe reflux can be helpful.