Colic: Should you let your baby with colic cry?

As a new, first time mom, I thought the one thing I could do well was nurse my seven-week-old baby. For the past two weeks I've been having problems nursing her due to colic. She starts to whine, turn red, I hear bubbles churning inside her and her legs are stretched out tight. I have tried different nursing positions and have her on Mylicon drops for the gas. My doctor recommends sitting her in her bouncy chair (which she likes) and letting her cry it out. Please tell me that you have some other suggestions!


Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Your baby is right around the age that colic often peaks. What a challenging time this can be for new parents!

Your Doctor advised that you let your little one cry it out in a bouncy seat. There is no medical rationale for this advice -- it is his personal opinion that this may be helpful, probably because he is well aware of how trying a baby's crying can be for a new mom and dad.

The Kung of South Africa hold their babies constantly and feed them as needed, which may as often as four times an hour, though maybe only for a minute or two at a time. (Konner and Worthman 1980). Their babies rarely cry. This way of mothering is very different from what is traditional in the United States. Maybe we can learn something from the Kung. Babies that are held cry less. (Babies with colicky symptoms also usually do well on smaller and more frequent feeds.) It has been found that mothers who carry their babies at least three hours a day reported that their babies cried only half as long as babies whose mothers did not spend the extra three hours holding them (Barr 1989).

Foremilk/hindmilk imbalance can increase a baby's fussiness. Allow your baby to control the feed, coming off your breast on his own, relaxed and satisfied. See my letter, Gassiness and Green Stools for more information on this subject.

Chiropractors have found many colicky babies to have subluxations of the cervical or thoracic spine. Several studies over the past few years have found a reduction in colic with chiropractic adjustment. A retrospective study of 132 colicky babies found that 91 percent experienced an improvement in symptoms (as reported by their parents) within one week of chiropractic treatment, and an average of two to three adjustments (Nilsson N; Infant Colic And Chiropractic. Eur J Chiropr 1985; 33(4): 264-265). A 1999 study looked at babies diagnosed with infantile colic. Over a two-week period, half of the subjects had chiropractic adjustments, while the other half received the drug dimethicone. The amount of crying fell significantly -- 2.7 hours a day -- in the chiropractic group, while crying only was reduced by one hour a day in the dimethicone group. Babies who were adjusted saw a 67 percent reduction in crying, while the drug group saw a 38 percent reduction. Researchers concluded, “Spinal manipulation is effective in relieving infantile colic” (Physiol Ther 1999;22(8):517-22).

Do you have a family history of allergy, asthma or dermatitis? Some babies are bothered by dairy products in a mother's diet. If you are concerned that your baby is experiencing colic due to dairy in your diet, you may decide to eliminate all dairy products for a period of at least two weeks to see if your baby is more comfortable. Be sure to read the labels, since it is necessary to totally eliminate all dairy during this period of time. If you have not noticed an improvement during this two week period, it is unlikely that this is the problem.

It is very important that you work along with your baby's Health Care Provider. If your baby remains very uncomfortable, it is important to get to the root of the problem. Sometimes gastroesophogeal reflux (GER), can be playing a part in a young baby's discomfort. Be sure to have your little one thoroughly evaluated if her symptoms continue. Best wishes in mothering!

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