Colic is many times the first severe pain a baby will feel in their lives. It is usually manifested as an acute abdominal pain with intense spasmodic cramping, but since colicky babies cannot describe exactly what distresses them, it is hard for parents to know the precise cause of their distress. There are many home remedies that parents use to try to calm their children, but are any of them really proven to do the trick?

Experts believe that 1 out of every 5 babies born experience colic. Colic is usually diagnosed by the “rule of threes,” beginning between the third and sixth week of life, and in severe cases, lasting up to six months. Although no known cure exists, many colic remedies are available to provide fast relief during a crying outburst.

Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, who conducted the study posted online in the journal Pediatrics states:

“The advice is not to use any complementary treatment on them (babies), because some of them are not risk free. All of them cost money.”

Fennel tea is a commonly used remedy. Fennel tea is gentle enough to give to infants and is especially beneficial in treating colic. Fennel tea relaxes smooth muscles and relieves spasms in the gastrointestinal tract which makes it an effective herbal remedy for treating gas and bloating. It also helps treat constipation, soothe an upset stomach, and relieve abdominal cramps for adults.

Colic remains a mystery and the cause is still unknown. It occurs most commonly in the first four months of life. Besides constant crying, the baby may curl up the legs, clench the fists, and tense up the abdominal muscles. Crying can begin for no apparent reason. It can persist for three hours or more on a single day.

Doctors consider it to be colic when the crying occurs more than three hours daily, three days a week for more than three weeks in a baby who is otherwise healthy.

A commonly used drug on the market is called Colic Calm. According to the product’s website, it has a success rate of over 90% in treating baby colic. It is deemed as an “all natural” remedy. The unique homeopathic formula works within minutes, so it is only given on an “as needed” basis. It has been reported that it works wonders for bloating, pressure, stomach cramps, hiccups, teething and even acid reflux. It is also extremely effective on gas created during introduction of new foods into babies’ delicate digestive tracts.

Although not FDA approved, sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda has been used for crying babies. This is an alkali (antacid) which alters the naturally occurring pH of baby’s stomach acid. It may counteract some discomfort caused by acid reflux in cases of acidic stomach. However, changing the delicate pH balance in baby’s system can cause over-alkalinity and exacerbate a colicky condition. Furthermore, sodium bicarbonate is also absorbed into the bloodstream and thus can have unwanted side effects. Studies have shown that sodium bicarbonate can deplete and interfere with folic acid and iron, indicating that it may affect the function or absorption of both.

It is important to remember that babies are just getting accustomed to this world and, as they grow older, their colic will eventually subside. Their digestive systems will learn how to function better and adapt to contemporary environmental conditions. In the first three months of life, babies are not well-equipped to calm themselves. Self-calming is a skill that develops slowly over time and at different rates in children.

Sources: The Journal of Pediatrics and Colic Calm

Written by Sy Kraft, B.A.