Although medical problems are not commonly the cause of colic, I estimate that ten to fifteen percent of extremely fussy babies cry because of one of four tummy troubles: food allergy, constipation, feeding problems, or stomach acid reflux.
Children who suffer from these treatable conditions may get some relief from the 5 “S’s” and the grandmother’s tips discussed earlier; however, what many of these infants truly need is a medical solution for their particular difficulty.
Here are a few hints on how to soothe these unhappy infants.
Preventing Food Allergies:
Getting Tummies Back on Track
It’s believed that approximately ten percent of colicky babies cry due to food sensitivities. Unfortunately, doctors have no accurate test to check babies for this problem. To discover if your child has a food allergy, you must play Sherlock Holmes and eliminate foods from your diet or switch your baby’s formula to see what happens. (Always consult your doctor before doing so.) It usually only takes two to four days to see if the crying gets better.
If your baby improves when you eliminate foods from your diet, she may have a food allergy. However, sometimes this improvement is just a coincidence. To be sure your child truly has to avoid those foods, I advise you to wait for the fussiness to be gone for two weeks and then to eat a spoonful of the suspected food, or feed your baby a half ounce of the suspected formula. Try this over four to five days; if there’s an allergy the crying will return.
Most babies with food allergies are allergic to only one or two foods, with the most common, by far, being cow’s milk and dairy products.
If you’re breast-feeding and you stop eating dairy products because your baby is sensitive to them, rest assured there are many other ways to get adequate calcium in your diet. Besides calcium supplements, you can also get calcium from green vegetables (broccoli, leafy vegetables), sesame-seed butter, dark molasses, fortified orange juice or soy milk, corn tortillas, etc.
Eliminating dairy foods from your diet is not a risk to your child. However, if you stop dairy products for more than a few weeks, speak to your doctor to make sure you’re meeting your body’s calcium needs.
That’s why doctors often recommend bottle-fed babies switch from cow’s milk formula to soy. Many babies improve by doing this, but as I noted earlier, at least ten percent of milk-allergic babies are soy-allergic too. These babies require a special, hypoallergenic formula; ask your doctor about these.
Constipation: Interesting Ideas on a Dry Subject
Like grandma always said, “It’s important to stay regular,” and that’s especially true for babies! Fortunately, breast-fed babies are almost never constipated. They may skip a few days between poops, but even then the consistency is pasty to loose. Bottle-fed babies, on the other hand, do get constipated, but several commonsense approaches can usually help rectify the problem:
• Change the formula—Sometimes changing your baby’s formula can help resolve her constipation. Some infants have softer stools when they drink concentrated formula versus powder (or vice versa); others do better with cow’s milk formula versus soy; and, rarely, some may improve with a switch to a low-iron formula.
• Dilute the mix—Your baby’s poops may improve when you add one ounce of water or half an ounce of adult prune juice (organic is best), once or twice a day, directly to the formula. (Never give babies under one year of age honey or corn syrup as a laxative.)
• Open the door—One last way to relieve constipation is to get your baby to relax her anus. Infants who strain to poop often accidentally tighten their anus. Like adults who can’t pat their heads and rub their tummies at the same time, many babies have trouble tightening their stomach muscles and relaxing their rectums simultaneously.
Try getting your baby’s anus to “loosen up” by bicycling her legs and massaging her bottom. If this fails, insert a Vaseline-greased thermometer or Q-tip one inch into the anus. Babies usually respond by trying to push it out, and they often push the poop out at the same time.