Colic in babies can be defined as unexplained or intermittent crying one or two times a day by a healthy, well-fed child. Usually, such crying bouts last for a few hours daily and occur at least three times a week for more than three weeks. This problem is found in 5 to 25% of infants at some point.
It starts when a baby is 2 or 3 weeks old and resolves gradually within a few months, usually by the time the baby is 4 to 6 months old. At times, it can be a problem in older babies, too.
The exact cause is unknown, but one suspected reason is that air trapped in the abdominal cavity leads to pain and discomfort. Also, babies born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy or after delivery have a greater risk of developing colic.
Symptoms of colic include pain, crying, moaning, finicky behavior and cramping. In severe cases, babies can also show symptoms like frequent vomiting, a change in stools, unstable body temperature, poor weight gain and fatigue.
Colic can be distressing for both the baby and the parents. Parents of colicky babies can suffer from relationship stress, breastfeeding problems and even postpartum depression.
You need to handle the situation properly and be thankful that in a matter of weeks or months, the colic will end. In the meantime, you can try some simple home remedies to help alleviate your child’s discomfort and fussiness.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for colic in babies.
1. Warm Bath
Give your baby a warm bath during colicky times. This will have a soothing effect on your baby as well as help to distract and make your baby sleepy.
- Fill your baby’s bathtub with warm water.
- Add a few drops of lavender oil.
- Bathe your baby in this water.
- While doing so, massage the tummy area gently to relieve painful trapped gas.
- Dry your baby and rock gently to help him sleep.
2. Warm Compress
Another simple home remedy to help a colicky baby is a warm compress. Warm compresses applied on the baby’s tummy provide relief from the gas and also have a soothing effect.
- Dip a very soft towel in warm water and wring out the excess water.
- Place the warm towel on the baby’s tummy.
- You can even rub the towel gently in circular motions for a few minutes.
- Follow this simple remedy 2 times daily to assist gas movement.
Note: Do not use a hot water bottle or heating on babies.
3. Oil Massage
Regular oil massages will also do wonders for any baby suffering from colic pain. Massage will help keep the baby warm, ensure proper digestion and prevent gas. Plus, it will help your baby sleep after each feeding.
- Put some warm olive oil on your hands.
- Use it to gently massage the baby’s tummy in clockwise circles.
- Also massage the baby’s rub cage, pelvis, hands and feet.
- Do this several times a day.
4. Knee Pushing Exercise
Gentle exercise is essential for your baby to ensure smooth digestion. One exercise that can help a lot in relieving colic pain in babies is knee pushes.
- Put your baby in a lying position.
- Gently hold your baby’s knees together.
- Slowly bend the legs at the knees and push them towards the tummy.
- Hold the legs in this position for a count of 4 to 6.
- Repeat several times every day.
Note: Do not do it forcefully or when there is resistance from your baby.
5. Burp Your Baby
Always burp your baby after feeding to prevent colic pain. Burping will help release gas and prevent air pockets from forming in the stomach that can cause a lot of discomfort.
- After feeding, sit your baby upright or hold him against your shoulder.
- Support your baby’s neck and head properly.
- Gently rub your baby’s back and tummy until you hear a small burping sound.
- Lay your baby down.
- Do this after each feeding to prevent colic.
Asafetida is another very effective home remedy for colic. It acts as an anti-flatulent, aids digestion and relieves gas.
- Add a pinch of asafetida powder to 1 tablespoon of water. Heat the solution, then allow it to cool. Rub this solution around your baby’s navel (do not put in the navel). Repeat this treatment 2 or 3 times a day for best results.
- For babies who have started eating solid foods, mix a pinch of asafetida powder in their food before feeding.
- Breastfeeding mothers can add ½ teaspoon of asafetida powder to a glass of warm water and drink it twice daily.
Another herb that is beneficial in treating colic is basil. It is high in eugenol, which has antispasmodic and sedative properties that help expel gas and ease other gastrointestinal discomforts.
- Put 1 teaspoon of dried basil leaves in a cup of boiling water. Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and allow it to cool. Give 1 to 2 teaspoons of this tea to your baby a few times daily.
- Mothers who are breastfeeding can also drink this tea 2 or 3 times a day.
- Another option is to grind 1 tablespoon of basil leaves with a little water to make a paste. Apply this around your baby’s navel and abdomen. Allow it to dry, then wipe it off gently with a wet tissue. Repeat this treatment as needed.
8. Fennel Seeds
For colicky babies, fennel is a wonder herb. It can relieve gas and alleviate general stomach-related discomforts. Both babies and breastfeeding mothers can benefit from fennel seeds.
- Add 1 teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds to 1 cup of hot water.
- Cover and steep for 10 to 15 minutes, then strain it.
- A breastfeeding mother can drink this tea 2 or 3 times a day. Small babies can be given ½ to 1 teaspoon of this herbal tea 3 times a day.
- Follow this treatment on a daily basis.
9. Chamomile Tea
A 2007 study review by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that chamomile tea can help eliminate colic in infants. Chamomile is known for its antispasmodic and sedative properties that help relieve intestinal cramping and induce relaxation.
- Put ½ teaspoon of dried chamomile flowers in a cup and pour boiling water over it.
- Cover and steep for 10 minutes.
- Strain and allow it to cool to room temperature.
- Feed this tea in small doses (1 teaspoon) to your baby throughout the day.
A breastfeeding mother can also drink a cup of chamomile tea 2 or 3 times a day.
Note: Do not feed more than 2 to 4 ounces of chamomile tea to infants. Avoid strong chamomile tea as well.
Due to its calming and antispasmodic properties, peppermint helps reduce flatulence and other digestive conditions in infants.
- Add 2 drops of peppermint oil to 1 tablespoon of any baby massage oil. Massage your baby’s abdominal area with it using gentle circular motions. Do this at least 2 times daily.
- Alternatively, put 1 teaspoon of dried peppermint leaves in a cup of boiling water. Allow it to steep for 10 minutes, then strain it. Breastfeeding mothers can drink this tea 2 or 3 times a day.
- Let your baby lie on his or her tummy for 15 to 20 minutes daily.
- Breastfeeding mothers should include probiotic yogurt in their diet to improve their own as well as their baby’s digestive system.
- Playing soothing music is another way to calm a colicky baby.
- Keep your baby in motion to stop him or her from crying.
- Try putting your baby down to sleep.
- Changing your baby’s milk formula can also help.
- A pacifier or repetitious sounds like the noise of a fan or humidifier can be helpful for a colicky baby.
- Feed your baby as often as needed and do not forget about the burping.
- Breastfeeding mothers should eat a healthy diet and avoid stimulants such as caffeine and chocolate. You can also consult your baby’s doctor and consider changing your diet for 2 weeks to eliminate certain foods like dairy products and nuts to rule out the possibility of an unknown allergy in your baby.
- Hold your baby as upright as possible during feeding.
Make sure to call your pediatrician if you cannot calm your baby and he or she is crying continuously for hours.