Colic indicators in breastfed babies
Healthy babies often cry and fuss when they’re hungry, tired, or need a diaper change. But when a baby cries seemingly nonstop for no apparent reason, it could be colic. Colic can occur in both breastfed and formula-fed babies, and the indicators are the same.
A colicky baby will cry three or more hours every day, for more than three days a week, for at least three weeks. Some other things to watch for include:
- High-pitched cries that sound more like screams
- Crying episodes that may occur more frequently in the evening
- Crying fits accompanied by a red, flushed face, arched back, clenched fists, and stiffened legs and arms
- Baby will be unconsolable and unable to calm down even with feeding, rocking, or other soothing activities
- Tummy bloating and gas
While seeing your baby in distress is understandably upsetting, take solace—infants often outgrow the colic stage typically within the first four months and without long-term effects. However, if your baby is crying continuously, visit your pediatrician for guidance. If your little one is not eating or is experiencing diarrhea, reflux, fever, or other concerns, it may not be colic, and your doctor can help figure out what’s going on.
Why do breastfed babies get colic?
There are several theories on why babies may get colic, regardless of whether they are breastfed or formula-fed. Possible factors that may play a role include gas, overstimulation, and their still-developing ability to calm themselves. However, there are some breastfeeding-related factors that may potentially contribute to colic.
Overabundant breast milk supply
Breast milk consists of foremilk and hindmilk, both of which have nutrients your baby needs. However, an overabundance of milk can cause a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance since your baby may fill up on the foremilk before they reach the hindmilk that follows. This imbalance may contribute to excess gas, bloating, and other digestive issues.
If your breast milk flows out too quickly, your little one may gulp, gasp, or cough during feedings, causing them to swallow air. Those air bubbles can get trapped in the stomach and intestines, possibly leading to discomfort and colic.
Some babies may be extra sensitive or allergic to something in the mother’s diet, such as cow’s milk protein.
Are breastfed babies more colicky?
Colic is common in infants, regardless of whether they breastfeed or use formula. If your breastfed baby has colic, talk to your doctor. They will often encourage you to continue nursing while incorporating some colic remedies for breastfed babies.
Colic remedies for breastfed babies
Try these remedies that may help ease your colicky breastfed baby.
Breastfeed in a reclined position
Leaning back on a chair or lying on your back when nursing may help slow breast milk flow, making your baby less likely to gulp while feeding.
Release a little milk before feeding
Releasing some breast pressure before nursing, either by pumping or hand expression, may help avoid a fast, overactive let-down.
Get a good latch
When breastfeeding, check to see that your baby has an optimal latch on your nipple and the surrounding areola to help them avoid swallowing too much air.
Keep track of your diet
Try to identify any foods in your diet, such as dairy or spicy foods, that may be contributing to your baby’s discomfort. Speak to your doctor before changing your diet or if you suspect your baby may have a food sensitivity or allergy, such as cow’s milk protein allergy. A baby with cow’s milk protein allergy may cry excessively and exhibit additional issues such as spit-up, diarrhea, a rash, and wheezing.
If you think your little one’s colic may be connected to a sensitivity or allergy to cow’s milk protein, reach out to your doctor. If they suggest incorporating infant formula, or if you’re considering supplementing or switching, Nutramigen® with Probiotic LGG may help. It is a hypoallergenic infant formula that is clinically shown to manage colic due to cow's milk protein allergy in as quickly as 48 hours.†
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