We all have stomach issues. Imagine a tiny baby who just came into this world and needs to deal with air, water, food, medicine, vaccines, bacteria, viruses – the list goes on and on. Baby tummy issues aren’t only tough on babies- they are tough on Moms, new and experienced alike, and the rest of the family. The dreaded “colic” is a sword of Damocles that hangs over all expecting parents. Colic isn’t a scientific term to identify any particular ailment your baby may have. In fact, nobody really knows what colic is and why it happens to some babies but not others.
You can’t predict it and you can’t entirely fix it until it fixes itself around 3-months mark. But you CAN manage some common culprits that may cause colic, like stomack issues, and bring some sanity back home when the crying last for hours and your heart is breaking because you feel helpless.
Not all the babies will have colic, but all the babies will have some trouble adjusting to this world in the first three months. Acid reflux, gas, intestinal imbalance and allergies – all cause little tummies to ache. I didn’t have a full-blown colic, but I had some stomach issues. And those issues made me cry. A lot. Until my Mom figured out a few ways to minimize the environmental impact on my tiny body. And it worked!
Here are 5 tips to manage your baby’s stomach issues and potentially alleviate colic:
1. Intestinal Imbalance & Probiotics – probiotics have been THE thing for a few years now with Jamie Lee Curtis advertising for Activia yogurt and multiple other celebrities trying to tell us that probiotics are good for you. Yogurt is good for adults, not babies, though. But there are wonderful products on the market that can help babies build up the good bacteria populations in their fragile intestines. When I was 2 weeks old, Mom’s friend recommended BioGaia ProTectis. We never looked back ever since.
The dosage is 5 drops and each drop contains millions of good Lactobacillus reuteri, bacteria which, in addition to helping maintain healthy intestinal flora, fight off harmful infections and mediate the body’s immune system. Added bonus – it comes with Vitamin D, so vital for baby’s proper bone development.
Need another reason? And (ta-dah!) it has been proven to reduce colic. That’s right, scientifically proven! The Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition came out with a research article on the subject “Infant Colic – What Works: a Systematic Review of Interventions for Breast-Fed Infants” which concluded that after 21 days of administering Lactobacillus reuteri the overall mean reduction in crying time was 56 minutes! Can you imagine – giving your baby 5 drops of BioGaia alone will give you almost a whole hour of quiet time?! By the way, Mom gives these magic 5 drops to me to this day.
Mom contacted the BioGaia company directly and got the confirmation that 5 drops were safe for newborns, the package dosing instructions were confusing. I have not had a single diarrhea in my life, people.
2. Gripe Water – you have heard (or will hear if you are expecting) about Gripe Water. It’s supposed to help with the baby’s tummy issues, like gas, upset stomach and, you guessed it, colic. It’s basically some herbal ingredients mixed with some chemicals. Some Moms swear by it. Every brand claims their’s is the best and most effective. But my Mom didn’t want to infuse me with such a foreign combination plus chemicals at a tender age of 2 weeks. True, there are ‘organic’ varieties out there, but they spoil quickly after opening and failing to refrigirate right away and they are expensive. So she found an ages-old recipe to make your own natural Gripe Water minus a few wacky ingedients (the original recipe contained 3.6% alcohol, yikes).
Put one teaspoon of Fennel Seed and one teaspoon of Dill Seed into the tea ball strainer. Put the strainer into the sanitized mug and fill it with 1 cup of boiling water. Let it seep for 10 minutes. Take the strainer out and pour the tea into the sanitized mason jar. A 4 oz jar works best. You can drink the rest of the tea yourself. Let it cool, then refrigerate and discard after one week. Make fresh tea and repeat.
Using a feeding syringe, give your baby 1-2 cc (cubic centimeters) which is about 1-2 ml (or 1/4 to 1/2 of a teaspoon) of warmed up (to at least room temperature) tea 3-4 times a day and once before bed time. Hold baby in the upright position and release the liquid in small amounts aiming at the cheek inside the mouth, never squirt in the throat direction to avoid gagging.
If this coincides with feeding, give the tea 10-15 minutes after the feeding because gas forms after a meal. You can start with a very low dose to test your baby’s tolerance to the ingredients and then increase it if your baby takes it well. Do not exceed half a tea spoon per one intake until the baby is at least 3 months old.
By the way, the same article I mentioned above found that giving babies fennel preparations reduced crying time by an overall mean average of 72 minutes! Amazing. And we are not even half way through the list of tips.
3. Gas-Relieving Tips – when babies are born, they have to learn everything – how to breathe, how to eat, how to sleep … and how to pass gas. Their digestive systems are so fragile after birth because all of a sudden completely foreign substances are entering thir bodies with every breath. Intestinal imbalance follows – see Tip #1 above to fix that. Babies will also inhale lots of air during crying and feeding which produces excess gas and causes pain in that little tummy. Babies do not know the mechanism of passing gas, their muscles need to learn how to push it out, and until they do, here is what my Mom did to help me.
– Burp, burp, burp – the more air you can get out of the baby right after the feeding the less of it will pass through the digestive system and turn into gas!
– Put the baby on the stomach as much as possible (not right after feeding, though, duh). This will not only help build muscle strenth, but will also push at least some gas out.
– Perform tummy massage. Lay baby on the back and pressing gently massage around the belly button in a ClOCKWISE direction about 10 circles, then stop. Alternate this move with the next exercise.
– Bicycle legs or double knees to the chest exercises. Both help with relieving gas. The second one is more effective though. Lay baby on the back, take both legs in your hands and bend in knees. Bring the knees to baby’s chest and push gently yet firmly for 2 seconds, then straighten the legs. Repeat several times until you hear baby passing gas – you will hear it, trust me. Both of these moves will strengthen baby’s leg and abdominal muscles as well. Plus, baby will love the attention and exercise!
4. Acid Reflux Tips – acid reflux may be a serious medical condition in some babies, so consult your doctor if you suspect it. The most common advice to alleviate mild acid reflux:
– Always keep baby at a slight angle while feeding – baby’s head needs to be above the stomach level.
– Adjust baby’s sleeping space. If baby sleeps in a bassinet or a crib – put something underneath the matress to elevate one side of the mattress – use a phone book or a towel to creat that slight angle. Do not overdo it! The angle shouldn’t be more than 30 degrees. (STOP doing this once your baby starts rolling or moving around in the crib. Sleeping with head below the level of the legs can cause serious injury or death!)
For babies sleeping in parent’s bed – there are special wedge pillows on the market. Choose a wide pillow like this one – wide enough to be safe.
An alternative for naps – Serta Infant Napper – positioned at the right angle, this product will reduce reflux as well while baby is napping during the day.
– Mom may need to adjust her diet during the first few months of breasfeeding while baby’s digestive system is maturing. See Tip #5 below.
5. Mom’s Diet in Breastfed Babies – this is a very controversial subject. The information out there is simply very confusing. Some breastfeeding-support organizations (like La Leche League) and popular prenting sites like kellymom.com suggest that there is no connection between Mom’s diet and baby’s digestive issues. While other sites and mothers on “baby forums” tell you to avoid certain foods.
It all depends on the Mom and the baby’s reaction to her milk. If there is no reaction and baby has absolutely no issues (no reflux, no excess gas, no allergies) then you are one of the few lucky ones out there. Congratulations!
But if you are like the rest of moms and babies, there is always something. Of course, you have to talk to your doctor to figure out what is causing issues first (and make sure they really are issues and not the product of your exhausted and sleep-deprived imagination). And then look at your specific diet.
My Mom decided to be on a diet for the first 4 months of my life – the time for my digestive and immune systems to build strength. She avoided dairy, refined sugar, caffein, alcohol, and raw fruits and vegetables that cause gas. It wasn’t an impossible diet. She still ate vegetables and fruit, but slightly cooked – or juced them to aid her own digestion, as discussed here.
If baby has obvious alergic reactions, detect the foods that may cause that. Mom has a friend who could not eat red sause of any kind (no pizza for her), as her baby would have terrible reflux.
It is up to the Mom to decide what’s best, though. In the state new Moms are in during the first few months of the baby’s life – the last thing they need to worry about is malnutrition or depression caused by avoiding foods they love.
I really hope that these tips will help you and your baby survive the first few months – nobody wants their baby to be in pain or cry for any reason. Managing these 5 culprits potentially causing colic is not a huge task, it requires dicipline and consistency to work.
Wishing you and your baby peace and calm in this journey!