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Gastrointestinal system
A baby is described as having infant colic if he or she has episodes of irritability and inconsolable crying but is otherwise healthy and well fed. Colic generally occurs in the early weeks of a baby's life and usually eases by the time a baby is three months old. It is estimated that colic affects between 10 and 15 per cent of all babies. It can be extremely stressful and emotionally draining for parents trying to get used to a newborn baby, but parents can be reassured that colic does not cause the baby any long term harm or affect its development.
No one really knows why some babies develop colic. One of the most popular explanations is that there is too much wind in the baby's stomach, causing cramp and pains. Some doctors believe that certain foods that the baby or breast-feeding mother eats can make colic worse. Foods that have been suggested as making colic worse include garlic, onions, spicy foods, broccoli, cabbage, plums, coffee and tea. Some babies may be sensitive to lactose, a sugar found in breast milk and formula milk, and to milk proteins found in dairy products eaten by the mother and passed through to the baby in breast milk.

There is no clear evidence that any of these foods will affect a baby. If it is thought that there may be a link between a certain food and a bad bout of colic, the parents should discuss with the health visitor or doctor the possibility of excluding that food from the mother's or baby's diet.
If a baby has colic he or she may cry loudly for hours at a time. The baby will appear tense and will seem to have pains in the stomach. Often babies will draw their knees up to their chest and clench their fists. Some babies might have a rumbling stomach and produce a lot of wind. Colic seems to be more common in the early evening but can occur at any time, usually at about the same time each day.
If it is thought that the baby is sensitive to cow's milk proteins, the health visitor will recommend the use of a special formula feed that does not contain cow's milk proteins.

If it is thought that the baby is sensitive to lactose the health visitor may recommend eliminating lactose from the baby's feeds. If the baby is bottle-fed, this will involve changing the baby's formula milk to a lactose-free or lactose-low formula milk. If the baby is breast fed, a few drops of lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose, can be added to expressed breast milk which is first fed to the baby before continuing the breast feed.

Whether it is cow's milk intolerance or an intolerance to lactose, dairy products should also be eliminated from the mother's diet if the baby is being breast fed.

If the baby's colic is caused by trapped wind, activated dimeticone can be given in the form of drops. Dimeticone causes small bubbles of wind in the stomach and intestine to come together and to be more easily expelled when the baby burps.
When to consult your pharmacist
Drops containing activated dimeticone or drops containing the enzyme lactase can be bought from the pharmacy. In older babies, alcohol-free gripe waters can help. Always check with the pharmacist before buying any medicines for colic.

If you are breast feeding and you notice that your baby has colic your pharmacist will advise you on which foods you should avoid. If your baby is bottle fed, and you think that colic is being caused because of an intolerance to the formula milk, your pharmacist will show you the various types of special formula feeds that are available and will recommend one that you could try. If your baby does have an intolerance to lactose or to cow's milk it is likely that you will be advised to visit your doctor as many of these special formula feeds can be obtained on a prescription.
When to consult your doctor
If you are concerned about the cause of your baby's persistent crying talk to your doctor or health visitor to exclude any other underlying problems.
Living with a baby who has colic
There is no magic cure for colic, but there are a number of things that you can do that may help. Try to remain calm yourself and share the responsibility of looking after the baby with your partner if you become tired. Babies somehow sense when the parents are upset and can become upset too.

Trying calming your baby if he or she cries after a feed. Some babies will become calm if they are rocked gently or carried over the arm. Carrying the baby close to you in a sling can also be soothing. Other babies will settle if you take them for a ride in the car, and certain babies like to be swaddled in a blanket. Music can also help some babies relax and sleep. You need to experiment to find out what best soothes your baby.

Bouts of crying can turn family life upside down so do not be afraid to ask for help. If you do not have any family or friends who can help out, ask your doctor or health visitor to put you in touch with someone to whom you can talk.

When feeding, try sitting the baby upright to feed and always burp the baby after a feed by gently massaging the baby's back. Try a few drops of dimeticone into the baby's mouth after each feed to release trapped wind. If you think that is lactose that is causing your baby's colic, you will normally see an improvement within a week of using lactase. Also you can gain some relief by knowing that if it is lactose intolerance, your baby will normally grow out of the problem by the age of 4 months when it will produce enough lactase of its own to cope with the lactose in its diet.

If you are breast feeding and you think that your baby may be sensitive to a particular food that you eat, try eliminating that food from your own diet for a few days to see if that helps.
Useful Tips
  • Make sure your baby drinks slowly
  • Wind your baby regularly
  • Try and identify what soothes and calms your baby
  • Do not stop breast feeding or change your baby's formula milk without talking to your health visitor