Question: My baby suffers from colic and receives breast milk, do I have to change what I eat?
There is nothing more overwhelming and frustrating for parents than having a baby suffering from colic. Infantile colic is very common in the first month of babies. Almost 30% of babies suffer from colic. Symptoms usually worsen at 6 weeks and improve at 3 to 6 months.
The term colic is defined by uncontrollable crying for no apparent reason in healthy babies. If your baby cries for more than 3 hours at a time for at least 3 days a week for 3 weeks, your baby may be suffering from colic.
Colic is not a chronic disease, nor are there medications to solve colic. What is known is that the cure is in TIME. 80-90% of babies with colic are relieved by the fourth month. Infantile colic is one of the great mysteries of nature since the exact cause is not known. There are different theories about why colic occurs and also a lot of controversy about what the mother who is breastfeeding her baby with colic should eat. Many say to cut out broccoli, beans, onions, garlic, and even some grains and vegetables.
The problem is that every baby is unique and can react to different foods. There is no study that validates the elimination of certain foods during lactation to remedy colic. In fact, some studies show that breastfed babies are more willing to accept solids, possibly because they already know the taste thanks to a varied diet from the mother.
It is very rare that your baby is intolerant to your milk. It is even very difficult to distinguish if your baby's symptoms are due to your diet or purely coincidental. Remember that colic is ultimately "unexplained crying/irritability." If your baby has a fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhea and is not gaining weight, it could be something other than colic. See your pediatrician right away.
If you are giving them formula you can switch to a formula with pre-digested milk proteins. Your doctor will most likely switch you to a formula with "hydrolyzed" or pre-digested proteins to help with your baby's digestion.
For all breastfeeding moms I recommend the following:
- Avoid feeding your baby too fast or overfeeding, as this can cause more air to enter your stomach and irritate it. Avoid too much time between feedings and make sure to breastfeed when he starts to show signs of hunger.
- Eliminate caffeine in your diet– Coffee, tea and chocolate are foods that contain caffeine and could stimulate it too much. Opt for non-caffeinated tea such as mint or chamomile.
- Breastfeed on one breast at every feeding– Breast milk changes composition throughout the intake. Starter milk is higher in volume but lower in fat. If you switch breasts prematurely, you may not be getting full as the milk at the end of the feed is rich in fat and higher in calories. Let your baby remove himself. If he is still hungry, continue to offer him the same breast. At the next meal offer the other breast.
- Temporarily eliminate dairy foods. (milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream and everything that contains milk protein) for 7-10 days. In some cases it may be that the proteins in the mother's diet are transferred to breast milk. Especially milk proteins. The most common allergenic food is dairy.
- If you don't see improvement in symptoms, reintroduce dairy products.
- If you see improvement, gradually introduce dairy. If you see symptoms getting worse then you may need to switch your milk to soy or almond milk and remove dairy products from your diet temporarily.
- That being said, it is very important that you incorporate other sources of calcium in your diet, since you will be eliminating dairy. Make sure you eat foods high in calcium like: salmon, sardines, calcium-fortified cereals, fortified orange juice, spinach, and other green vegetables.
- Give your baby a massage– Calm your baby by giving him a massage before he starts crying. Symptoms of colic usually appear at the same time. Do the massage in a clockwise direction. To see a video of how to do a massage click here.
The composition of breast milk varies significantly between each woman, so it is difficult to conclude and know how much the mother's diet affects breast milk. If you suspect that a certain food may aggravate your baby's symptoms, eliminate it but keep a diary of colic symptoms and the food you ate to see if there is improvement. Remember that if you completely eliminate a food, it is important that you substitute it in other ways. Consult with your registered dietitian or physician to create an eating plan that is right for you.
Above all, be patient!