Combat Colic – 5 Ways to Manage Your New Baby’s Digestive Issues that May Cause Colic

Colic-remedies

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.

Biogaia-prorectis--proven-colic-relief

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).

You will need:
– Organic Fennel Seeds
Dill Seeds
– Stainless Steel Tea Ball Strainer
– Glass 4oz Mason Jars
– Feeding Syringe (remember, the ones you took from the hospital?)

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.

Final Word

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!

Hospital Bag Myth: to Pack or not to Pack? Plus 5 Essentials You Need to Take Home from the Hospital after Delivery

Baby-hospital-bag

If you have ever been pregnant or know anyone who has been pregnant, you will know – it is really easy to scare a pregnant woman into action! Books, blogs, baby forums, neighbors, relatives, friends – all give advice. It was my Mom’s first pregnancy. At 37. You bet she followed every advice (that sounded scientific enough). She had her hospital bag ready 2 months before the due date. You know, just in case. Which annoyed my Dad because he had to have it in his car at all times. It was a big bag of seemingly essential stuff. In this article, I will tell you what you really need the hospital bag for.

My Mom’s hospital bag contained the hospital’s “woman in labor” temporary parking sign, birth plan, toiletries, clothes for herself (nightgown, robe, socks, nursing bra) and the baby (receiving blanket, swaddling sheets, take me home outfit), snacks, books, post-delivery belly support belt – it was a big bag!

We stayed at the hospital for 5 nights because of the emergency c-section and even then Mom used maybe 5% of what she brought in that hospital bag. It was toiletries, snacks, take me home outfit for me, and her phone charger. Yep, that is it! The hospital provided everything else for her and me, the baby; and Dad brought food and anything else that we needed (which wasn’t much).

The hospital bag does not deserve all the hype it gets and all the anxiety already-stressed-out-ready-to-burst ladies build into it.

Let’s break this down.

What you will need:

* All your documents: 2 forms of ID, birth plan, any medical documents, emergency contacts, etc.

* Your phone, camera AND their power chargers.

* You will need snacks. You can order real food from the hospital, but you will need snacks. And not just any snacks, but fiber-rich low fat ones. You see, you will be really (and I mean REALLY) constipated from the painkillers (if you opt for using them). TMI, but Mom couldn’t go for a week after delivery. So think prunes, prune juice, dried apricots, high-fiber crackers.

* Clothes to take the baby home in and a blanket to tuck her in in that humongous car seat. The baby will not need any clothes at the hospital. Why? Because there will be a check-up every 2 hours by a nurse or a doctor or both. Bad enough they will un-swaddle and un-diaper the baby, imagine if there were any clothes to take off and then put back on. I know from experience – that is mighty annoying, especially when you are constantly hungry.

What you will not need:

* Many women call hospital robes ‘yucky’. They’d rather bring those cashmere pajamas their mom got them specifically for this occasion. Yeah, cute. That’s before they deliver. After delivery, the hospital robe will seem the most comfortable thing in the world! You can change it as many times as you like during your stay. It’s convenient and roomy and worry-free – you just toss it into the dirty laundry bin in your room. So do yourself a favor – leave those nice pajamas, nightgowns and silk robes at home. Save room for important stuff in your ‘hospital bag’ – read on about that.

* You won’t need the new set of clothes to go home in either – the maternity clothes you came in are perfectly good (barring you were taken to the hospital engorging on the 4-pound Prego Pizza that you spilled all over your clothes). You will still have the belly – it doesn’t disappear with the baby out – and you will be thankful for the roomy clothes, especially if you had the surgery.

Of course, everyone is different with different experiences both during the delivery and at the hospital. Everyone has their needs and things to keep them comfortable. Mom had friends who got to the hospital 17 minutes before their baby ejected and those who were in labor for 36 hours. She herself was in labor for 22 hours. Nevertheless, she only cared about her phone being charged at all times. Because after 10 hours, it started ringing every 15 minutes with family asking what was going on.

Baby-delivery-hospital-bill
The hospital provides everything. And by ‘everything’ I mean EVERYTHING – both for the mother and the baby. Maybe hence the attached hospital bill. But you accept all they got to offer. Don’t feel bad or ashamed to take whatever you need from that hospital room as well as what nurses and lactation consultants can bring you. If you look at our bill – it was a $9,081/night room. We could have stayed at a 7-star Burj Al Arab in Dubai for that amount. For 4 nights and money to spare. Anyway…

Here are 5 essential things that should be in your hospital room and should end up in your hospital bag to take home:

1. Diapers and other baby stuff like nail files, snot sucker thingy, pacifiers, and those cute little hats that will serve you for at least a month and are a great keepsake.

2. Formula if you do not produce enough colostrum and then milk for your baby to stop screaming from hunger

3. Lactation aids and supplies: a hand pump (my mom still uses her Ameda) with extra bottles, Supplemental Nursing System (SNS), sore nipple cream (a must!) and shields, feeding syringes. If your baby is born with special feeding needs, like cleft lip or palate, ask about a Haberman feeder. They may have it.

4. Healing supplies: if you had a c-section you will have the dressing removed on day 2 and the skin that was under those bandages will itch like there is no tomorrow – ask for anti-itch cream.

5. Hygiene products: pads and more pads and those mesh underpants.

Take these things home, make that hospital bag you brought with you useful! Remember, you are paying for this room and for what’s in it.

If you can’t bear the thought of taking stuff, ask your Mother-in-law to do it for you.

Labor Ready – How to Naturally Induce Labor with One Simple Exercise

Ready-for-laborMy Mom had a very unique reason for wanting to go into labor exactly on her due date. The due date fell on her birthday. If I were born that day imagine the ultimate birthday gift that would be. Plus, we would have the same birthday. Plus, Dad would have to work twice as hard to make it a special day. So the precision had to be exact! Too much at stake!

The due date had really sneaked up on Mom. She was in the office at an all-day meeting the day before and was snapped into reality: due date is tomorrow and I have not shown clear signs I was ready to push the eject button. So Mom had to do some last minute research on “inducing labor naturally” and came across some wacky stuff:

1. Several videos of women doing Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” dance to induce labor. Yeah, that’s cute. But too little time left – not happening.

2. Multiple sources talking about various exercises to induce labor, which mom was already doing throughout her (walking, taking the stairs, kegal, lunges) pregnancy. The best recent article on this topic is on Mom Junction.

3. Labor inducing pizza. That’s right, a local pizza chain Skipolini’s has this “Prego Pizza” item on the menu. The thing weighs 4 pounds and has 6 kinds of meats on it. The joint swears it works. Great idea to engorge before the big day, but so much meat was just going to make Mom sick.

4. Crying followed by laughing. Like watch a drama followed by a comedy. Yeah, Mom does this at the office every day. Doesn’t seem to work for inducing labor, though.

5. Pineapple juice, teas, castor oil, spicy foods,  other anecdotal stuff. No time to try. No real proof it works.

But what really worked for Mom was this very simple yoga exercise she found on one of the ‘baby’ forums from way-way back: the original post was from 2009 and then it got reposted over the years. Did they have internet already back in 2009?

Mom was very fit and thought this was perfect for her. Plus, it made sense scientifically as well – squats and lunges should trigger the gravitational pull in the baby and help induce labor. Only 5% of babies are born on the due date. The chances were pretty slim for us going in. But why not give it a shot?

What you will need:
1. Your doctor’s OK to make sure you are ready

2. Timer

3. Quiet room (soft music in the background is ok).

The Exercise:
It’s the methodical repetition of movements consisting of 1 and 3 min intervals. Time it with the timer – very important.

Step 1: while walking, firmly rub your belly around the belly button in a clockwise direction for 1 minute

Step 2: while walking, do squats and lunges for 3 minutes. For example: walk, walk, lunge, walk, walk, squat. Both squats and lunges should be as deep and wide as you can manage. Do this for 3 minutes. The number of squats and lunges does not matter as long as you manage to do the good ones!

Step 3: Repeat Steps 1 and 2.

Go for as long as you can. Rest. Repeat.

Mom did this before bed – around 9 p.m. Her water broke at 3:30 a.m. the next morning. This exercise works if your body (and your baby) is ready! Otherwise it may not work.

We were ready and it was the best birthday ever for both of us! Yes, my Mom and I were actually born on the same day – thanks to this very simple exercise!