Infant Colicchild with colic

If you're reading this, there is a good chance you are dealing with a colicky baby. You are probably short of sleep and quite upset because your baby is uncomfortable.

What is Colic?

Your baby has colic if they experience prolonged periods of crying and you find it hard to comfort them during these episodes.

I hope that what follows will help.

What follows would be the ideal but is rarely fully attainable.

The ideal would be for a baby to be born safely at home, or in a low-tech birthing center, vaginally, with the use of few medications, to a mother who was healthy during the pregnancy, ate organic foods, avoided tobacco and alcohol, had a warm and supportive partner, lived in a stable home with lots of love, listening to Mozart. This child was brought to the mom's breast to suckle so her uterus could expel the placenta. The umbilical cord was still attached and unclamped until it stopped pulsing.

The child was kept close to the mother for a long time before being 'cleaned up'. At first, the infant was kept in a quiet environment and when at at home, was with mom who stayed quiet and off her feet for the first three weeks. Mom was looked after and fed lots of good food. Mom chose to breast feed and was not only successful, but also enjoyed her time with her baby.

Does this sound impossible? It probably is, but if followed, likely would result in a peaceful contented baby. What can you do to start the process of creating the conditions which will result in your baby being peaceful and contented?


I would like to break this into common elements, bottle fed and breast fed babies.

General Considerations Regarding Happy BabiesHappy baby


  • Make sure the environment is peaceful. That's not to say that normal happy family noise or decent music isn't OK for most babies. Sudden loud noises upset most babies.

  • Avoid sudden changes in light - babies don't like bright lights and prefer gentle transitions. For example, one of the coolest ideas is that when you leave an awake baby to sleep, the best is to walk out of the room carrying a lighted beeswax candle with you.

  • Babies can very easily get hot and sweaty leading to conditions like cradle cap. For an infant, sucking at the breast is their cardio workout. They can also get cold very quickly. They also loose a lot of heat through their heads. A light cap worn most of the time can help the newborn infant gain weight more quickly.

  • Newborn infants generally prefer swaddling. Chose a light cotton blanket and learn the drill from someone who knows.

  • No baby likes a dirty or wet diaper - check frequently.

  • Babies like a gentle rocking motion when they're feeding. A rocking chair or something similar works best. Choose a chair with arm support and put a pillow or cushion under your arm so you don't have to strain to hold baby.

  • Babies of all ages adore your voice. Sing quietly even if you are convinced you can't sing. Talk to your child. Make up stories. Let your baby hear your heartbeat by holding them close.

  • Add probiotics. We'll deal with this important issue at greater length down the page.

  • Check to see if your baby has thrush in their mouth. Thrush is a yeast , Candida, which starts to grow on the surface of the digestive system. In the mouth, it often appears on the inside of the cheeks, or on the tongue, as tiny white patches which may look like milk. To check this out, take a cotton swab and try to gently remove the while spot. Milk will move but Candida won't. This is very important to discover. The solutions will be described down the page. Babies with a Candida problem also often have a diaper rash in which this yeast grows on the wet skin in the diaper area.

If you can think of something I've missed, please email me.

Now we're going on to try to work out how to deal with the specifics depending on whether you are breast feeding or bottle feeding.

Breast feeding and Colic

Breast feedingYour milk is creating your infant. It seems amazing that he or she is being created only by your milk. The shape and being of this wunderkind comes from both parents but his or her substance is all yours. So what you eat is crucial.

There are lots of helpful books about the techniques of breast feeding - the LaLeche League has many written materials available, and, can often offer one-to-one help for breast feeding mothers. A book, The Womanly Art of Breast feeding is another resource. The Continum Concept, a wonderful book about the observation of the child rearing practices by a 'primitive' South American tribe is a real eye-opener for many of us. Now to specifics.

Your food choices are crucial for your infant's nutrition and easy digestion. Do:

  • Chose whole grains like oats, whole wheat, try barley and millet recipes.

  • Eat lots of vegetables but not those with high sulfur content (garlic, onions, cabbage, Brussels sprouts).

  • Do eat fruits in moderation - fewer in the cold months because they are designed to cool you down. Avoid the acidic fruits like oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, and grapes. Apples may cause some people problems.

  • Avoid spices like curry, pepper and strong herbs like those found in Indian cooking or foods from South Asia.

  • For liquids - drink lots. Do drink teas like fennel, caraway, green tea, and stinging nettle. Avoid black tea and coffee.

  • Generally avoid cow's milk. Why? For many infants, cow's milk is one of the big problems for colicky infants. There are many adults who are lactose intolerant and who, as infants, had this intolerance but whose only symptoms were colic. For other infants, cow's milk protein can be a problem. With a colicky baby, you should try total avoidance of cow's milk and cow's milk products including yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk, and ice cream. Butter is mostly free of lactose and cow's milk protein and is usually OK.

  • If there are any foods which disagreed with you before the pregnancy, avoid them.

  • Cover your breasts when they are open for breast feeding to avoid drafts. Cold breasts may be more susceptible to getting infected (mastitis). Certainly, cold causes the milk ducts to tighten up. This may be the way mastitis gets started. Some breast feeding moms will throw a light shawl over their shoulder to cover their breast and the infant.

  • If you pump, make sure the bottle nipple opening is not too large. This would make it too easy to get the milk out. In consequence, the baby might chose the easier route and avoid your breasts.

  • If you pump, make sure that you're not making it difficult to spend enough time with your infant. Your baby needs you!

Not enough breast milk?

  • You may be doing too much. Try doing less. Rest more. To produce milk you may need to rest a lot more. The Weleda company makes a "milkbuilding" tea. Other herbal pre-made tea mixtures are also available.

  • You may need to eat more. Increase your complex carbohydrates, whole grain products are especially helpful.

  • Make sure your breasts are warm - even using a hot water bottle before attempting feeding.

Bottle feeing and Colic

Here you're starting with a disadvantage. It is very hard, when your child is colicky, to quickly find a solution. But for a start, do your best to implement the suggestions in the general considerations above.

Because cow's milk is such a common problem, some manufacturers have tried to make it easier for infants by pre-digesting the milk and, in some cases, removing the lactose. But probably the best first step is to switch to a cow's milk-free formula. In my opinion, there is no ideal formula. Soy formulas may be easier for some infants. They are definitely worth a try. If you find that making such a switch has the effect of reducing colic you could use soy for a few months and, if things are going well, try to re-introduce a pre-digested cow's milk formula. Alternatively, when your baby is older, you could try a goat's milk formula. somehow, goat milk is free of many of the problems associated with cow's milk. For older children, it's often the answer in dealing with eczema and asthma.

Don't use the microwave to heat your baby's bottle. For reasons not yet fully understood, microwaves seem to have an upsetting effect on baby's digestion. We do know that microwaves have the effect of changing protein structure. This may make it harder for baby to digest food heated in a microwave.

Supplements to assist with Colic

These recommendations apply to both bottle fed and breast fed infants.

  • Fish oil helps reduce smooth muscle cramping. For the infant, this can result in less colic. Please make sure you get a product which has been purified to completely remove mercury. One such oil is NutraSea™. This deep sea herring oil comes as a liquid and several drops once or twice daily helps, not only with colic, but also assist the development of the baby's brain through its DHA content. Add 1-3 drops from a dropper to a bottle 2-3 times daily. For breast fed infants, mom should take the oil, either as capsules (about 3 of the large 1 g. capsules, or 1 tablespoon daily). Some infant feeding formulas have added Omega 3 fatty acids which will reduce the need for supplementation of this type.

  • Digestive Enzymes have been used very successfully, especially by formula feeding mothers. The principle is that by assisting with the breakdown of protein and complex carbohydrates, enzymes make it easier for the baby to absorb the food. The enzymes I have found to be most effective can be obtained by ordering them. Mothers who are breast feeding may also get some benefit from taking digestive enzymes as they will help to increase food digestion and absorption.

  • Homeopathic drops, like those from Nova (Bloating) can assist with colic cramps. Other manufacturers also have colic drops. If you give drops out of the bottle to an infant, you will be giving them alcohol because this is how the drops are prepared. To avoid this, bring a small amount of spring or filtered water to a boil and put into a spoon. Add several drops of the 'medicine' to the hot water. When the water has cooled down if may be safely given to the baby because the alcohol will have evaporated, but the active ingredients will be in the water.

  • Probiotics

    Shortly after birth many parents start their child on a probiotic - Bifidobacterium infantis. This supplement assists with digestive processes and help keep harmful yeasts (Candida) at bay.

    Recent studies have also supported the importance of another probiotic, L. reuteri DSM 17-938. Present in the intestine of many health people, it is likely lacking in most infants with colic. In healthy mothers with L. reuteri in their intestine, it also shows up in the breast milk. Maternal supplementation with L. reuteri can likely help to prevent colic in their babies.

  • Some over the counter preparations like Oval™ have been used for years, with success, by some mothers.

Diarrhea and fever

If your baby has diarrhoea the first thing to do is to go off dairy for at least several days. For breast feeding moms, this means stopping drinking milk etc.

Dehydration is always an issue so be aware of your baby's urine output. Check to make sure their diaper is wet - from urine, at least every six hours. If your baby becomes lethargic, has a persistent fever (for those over six months) or for infants under six months, any fever at all, get them medically evaluated.

Probiotics: If your baby has diarrhea, they need Probiotics. Start with Saccharomyces boulardii. This probiotic yeast has the ability to help the digestive system kick out harmful yeasts, (Candida), viruses (a common cause of baby's diarrhea), and some bacteria. Use part of one of the sachets which you will find under the trade name of Florastor™ in most pharmacies. For babies under six months, 1/8 of a packet twice daily should be about right. Older children can take 1/4 - 1/2 a packet twice daily. Continue this for several days until the diarrhea stops.

Candida:If your baby does not have diarrhea there may still be a use for Saccharomyces boulardii. This probiotic will help, as the first step, in dealing with a Candida (also called thrush) problem. The remainder of this paragraph is a copy of the instructions above and will help you to determine if your baby has a yeast problem.

Does your baby have thrush in their mouth? Thrush is a yeast, the most usual type is Candida, which may be found growing on the skin but which often starts growing on the surface of the digestive system. In the mouth, it often appears on the inside of the cheeks, or on the tongue, as tiny white patches which may look like milk. To check this out, take a cotton swab and try to gently remove the white spot. Milk will move but Candida won't. This is very important to discover. The treatment will be described down the page. Babies with a Candida problem also often have a diaper rash, in which this yeast grows on the wet skin in the diaper area.Baby with yeast diaper infection

Candida is one of the common causes of vaginal irritation and, for those women who have experienced it, can be a source of pain and vaginal discharge. It seems likely that a mother with even a mild, and possibly very low grade, Candida infection could transmit this to her infant. Babies can pick up Candida in the hospital and just about everywhere else.

Candida Treatment
: Start by giving Saccharomyces boulardii, as detailed above in the diarrhoea paragraph. Then after a few days, switch to a special probiotic designed just for babies, Bifidobacterium infantis. You will find this product in the refrigerated section of good health food stores. Keep it in the fridge and take out a small supply, fresh daily. Put it in a small clean container conveniently located where you feed your baby. With freshly washed hands, moisten a finger-tip (breast milk or formula will do) and let your baby suck it off your finger before each feeding. Alternately, it may be added to formula, but it must not be overheated, so put it into the bottle just before giving it to your baby.

I generally recommend the use of Bifidobacterium infantis to all my new mothers for their newborn infants- even those who do not have thrush. It helps the newborn establish beneficial digestive processes. It also likely helps to ward off yeast problems and may reduce the rate of infant diarrhea caused by viruses.

Babies with thrush represent a special risk for the breast feeding mother. The baby with thrush likely fusses during feeding because their mouth is sore. Worse, the yeast can get into tiny cracks in mom's nipples where it often leads to mastitis - a very painful infection of the breast.

The baby's mouth needs to be treated if they have thrush. One Pediatrician in Toronto (Dr. Jack Newman) has developed a protocol which uses a number of medications to deal with thrush and the mother's cracked or painful nipples. This approach undoubtedly works.

I have however, had success dealing with this problem using the following old-fashioned remedies.

Thrush Treatments

Purchase gentian violet 1% solution from a pharmacy. This old-fashioned extract of a flower root is very purple in colour. It is however, non-toxic. Swab the baby's mouth inside with the solution, before and after feeding, with a cotton swab dipped in the solution. The purple gets all over the place so be prepared. Also swab your nipples with gentian at the same time.

Moms should reduce their sweet and fruit consumption (see Candida diet) as the sweet tends to favour yeast growth. Giving the baby, first Saccharomyces boulardii, and then Bifidobacterium infantis will help correct their balance of probiotic digestive helpers.

When your baby has graduated to solid food, they no longer rely solely on Bifidobacterium infantis to assist their digestion. Instead, please consider giving them Acidophilus and Bifidus daily if there is a Candida problem. There is some evidence that giving probiotics daily will help if you would like to keep your baby's immune system topped up.

Don't be misled by the claims of companies promoting their version of yogurt that this will be helpful. While there may be some producers who include active human strains like Acidophilus DDS or Acidophilus GG, which have been proven to be biologically active and helpful for humans, I am not aware of them. The type of probiotic which turns milk into yogurt (Lactobacillus caseii) is good for that process but I am not aware of any studies which show that it is helpful for human immune boosting.