A guest post by naturopathic nutritionist Lisa Sheehy.
SO you survived morning sickness, dealt with not drinking even when the world drove you to it, and managed to somehow bend, roll over and sleep with an enormous bump.
Labour was everything they warned you about and more but finally your baby was born. Ten tiny fingers, ten tiny toes, overwhelming love and that deliciously scented head.
You sunk back into a plump nest of V shaped pillows and organic linen as the baby slept peacefully. A mother at last, creator of life, accomplished, calm and fulfilled. Right?
Well, maybe not so much – reality can bite. Sore nipples, sleep deprivation, sore lady bits and a desperate need for some peace can be tough. Because babies cry. A lot. Around two hours a day in the first six weeks according to a recent study.
But what if you have fed, burped and nappy changed your baby and they still cry. What then?
Colic involves lots of threes
The number three is used a lot to explain what excessive crying looks like. WebMD.com say that most doctors define this as ‘more than three hours a day more than 3 days a week for at least three week’ (4) Ouch.
That’s a lot of crying!
The frustration of people not knowing WHY
Even though around 28 per cent of UK newborns suffer from colic there is still no medical consensus on why it happens. (6)
This is where naturopathy could come to the rescue imagine a superhero now – maybe a more feminist, fatter and hippyish version of wonderwoman.
When I say I am a naturopathic nutritionist people often look at me in a baffled way. I understand because I had never heard of one until I was about 30 either!
I was a cancer and Macmillan nurse for 14 years but after learning about the power of plants and herbs I became hooked on natural healing and quit!
Naturopaths are like hippy health detectives, we do a thorough assessment to find the root cause of illness and use food, supplements or herbs to restore balance and relieve discomfort.
So what could cause colic?
Sometimes people will jump immediately to cutting things out of your baby’s diet but if you are breastfeeding look at this first.
If you have looked at any boob related issues and colic persists it’s time to look at digestion. As Hippocrates famously said 2000 years ago ‘all disease begins in the gut’ and it is true. Babies digestive systems can be delicate and sometimes need some support
Those friendly gut bacteria help digestion and sometimes babies need a bit of help to get the right balance. When babies are born vaginally they are exposed to vaginal and faecal bacteria via their eyes, nose, lips and mouth. Though this sounds a bit icky, it is actually a good thing – you are giving the gift of probiotics through your bodily fluids! Don’t feel guilty if you had to have a C-section though – Optibac do an excellent range of probiotics for tiny people. (8)
I’m not going to lecture you, don’t worry. We all know that breastfeeding offers a whole host of benefits but unfortunately it does not work out for everybody. So if it’s not an option for you, what formula should you choose?
I would suggest going for the best you can afford. UK law prevents any form of advertisement of specific formulas but look for brands which are organic.
If your baby is getting digestive issues like wind, reflux or constipation/diarrhoea after a feed, it’s a good idea to look at the formula.
Around five per cent of babies have issues with allergies or intolerances, though testing is not reliable until they are around a year old. (7) It is a good idea to watch closely for symptoms.
The top three allergens are dairy, wheat and soya but finding a formula without any of these is very challenging. Trial dairy-free first and go sequentially through the others if issues persist. I would advise that at this point you seek support from a GP or naturopathic nutritionist.
If it’s not a formula sensitivity issue and probiotics have not helped,
it’s time to look at YOUR diet. Of course this only applies if you are breastfeeding.
Bad guy number one is cow’s milk with a fair few studies showing that colic can improve following removal(10).
Good news for broccoli haters – cruciferous vegetables can cause increased gas and removal from the diet reduces colic symptoms in some studies. (11)
Remember that though eliminating foods can be a drag it’s just for a few months and if its effective could be a total sanity saver.
Fourth Trimester Theory
So your boobs are fine, you have given up bread, chocolate and all sorts and your baby is still crying. You have my greatest of sympathies but please don’t give up!
Pediatrician Harvey Karp wrote his book ‘The Happiest Baby on the Block ’ all about the ‘fourth trimester’. After 20 years of research he concluded that babies are born at nine months because of their head size but could really benefit from another three months before they are able to cope with the stresses of the outside world.
He was initially inspired by a lecture about the Kung San tribe in South Africa where he learned that colic does not exist there. His research found that babies are nursed 50-100 times a day and have lots of skin-to-skin contact. Check out his 5 S Theory below.
This too will pass…
I know this is difficult – Many people describe colic as the hardest thing they have ever gone through.
But please be patient with yourself and if you do go down the naturopathic route to try to figure it out, bear in mind it can take time and does involve a lot of trial and error.
Caring for an endlessly crying baby is very tough, but simply by following the principles and steps above should empower you to get to the root of the issue and see improvements.
There is no cure-all solution but colic is also not as mysterious as it is made out to be!
Lisa Sheehy is a straight-talking naturopathic nutritionist and former Macmillan nurse. She writes about everything from sex and alcohol to colic!