Colic in three-week-old baby

We have a new three-week-old baby girl. She appears to have colic. What can we do to help her?

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Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Colic is poorly understood. Its characteristics are well-known: an agonizing crying, drawing up of the legs, abdominal distention and gas. This behavior usually becomes apparent at two to four weeks and persists through the third or fourth month. It usually occurs in the late afternoon or early evening.

It has been suggested that colic is due to an immature gastrointestinal track. Sometimes, warm pressure on the babies abdomen, such as placing the baby over a nice warm shoulder, or laying him over your knee on which is placed a hot water bottle can help. If you are nursing, it may help for someone else to do this since a nursing baby often wants to breastfeed to help find comfort.

If your baby is drinking formula, there is a small chance that she is allergic to it, in which case you may want to experiment with other formulas. If you are feeding a cows milk based formula, you may to talk to your care provider about switching to soy formula or vice versa. However, an allergic reaction would not manifest itself only in the evening, so if your baby is colicky just a few hours of the day in the late afternoon or evening, it is unlikely to be caused by formula allergy.

Sometimes colicky breastfed babies respond if the mom eliminates dairy products from her diet as there may be an antigen from cows milk that can be present in the breastmilk and cause an adverse reaction in the baby. I caution you not to unnecessarily eliminate dairy products from your diet if you are nursing since this may put your calcium status at risk if you are not careful to find supplemental forms of that nutrient.

Also, check your local bookstore for baby care books. Many of them touch on the subject of colic, and although they don't necessarily give answers, they do have some good recommendations on how to deal with it.

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