Chinese Medicine would argue that colic is neither a myth nor a fixed diagnosis. A baby that is colicky is likely reacting to an uncomfortable process of indigestion. Thinking about how small their stomachs are; about the size of their fists, it is not hard to imagine that even a small gas bubble is very uncomfortable.
Also, if they have overfed the intestine may be overwhelmed by milk sugars. In Chinese medicine colicky babies are considered to have weak digestion. A study published in the May 2002 issue of Pediatrics divided babies (averaging 5 months old) into two groups, those who had, and who had not, been diagnosed with colic. Those in the colic group proved to have significantly poorer absorption of sorbitol and of the elevated fructose in apple juice -as shown by measuring increased hydrogen gas in their breath.
With proper treatment and attention this poor digestive process can be improved and hopefully help the child with future digestive issues.
A parent can help improve the baby’s digestion by applying some simple massage.
- Start from the point below the sternum in the middle of the abdomen and massage straight down to the belly button. Use the pads of your finger tips and gently stroke downwards 30-50 times. Continue this massage from the belly button down to about three inches below the belly button.
- Circle the belly button: Using the pads of your first three fingers gently massage counter-clockwise around the belly button 100-200 times.
- Sea of Energy: Below the belly button about 1-3 baby inches is the sea of qi or energy. If a baby has poor digestion TCM states that they do not have enough digestive qi and it needs to be “re-built”. You can gently knead or massage this area in a clockwise circular motion. Repeat 100-200 times.
Another important factor to consider when a baby suffers from colic is the diet of the mother when breastfeeding. Breastfed babies can also develop colic. Researchers in Melbourne, Australia helped confirm the theory that a breastfeeding mother’s diet can make a difference in her baby’s colic. Half of the mothers in the study went for one week without the most common allergy-causing foods: cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, and fish. The other half had a control diet that contained all of those proteins. Neither group had food colors, preservatives, or additives. The results were published online in the November 2005 edition of Pediatrics. For those moms on the colic diet, 74 percent of their babies ‘improved’ within 1 week (where improvement meant at least a 25 percent reduction in that baby’s crying time – meaning tangible hours of relief for babies and parents). At the end of the week, the difference between the two groups, on average, was 3 hours of crying per 48 hours.
How well do you digest these common allergy-causing foods or other foods? Try eliminating them from your diet for 7 days. Re-introduce these foods slowly if you notice an improvement and observe which foods your baby can tolerate. If the mother has difficulty with her digestion it may be important to strengthen her own digestion as well.
As new mother’s we also develop bad eating habits. Make sure that you are not eating on the run. Sit down with your baby or have your baby close by and eat a proper meal slowly. Enjoy the flavours of the food and take time to chew thoroughly. Combine foods appropriately as well. Do not combine sugars and fruits with starch, avoid combining dairy with meat and combine rich meats and protein dishes with lighter vegetables and easier to digest foods. Try sipping red bush chai tea (caffeine free) before or after meals.
Colic can be very upsetting to both the baby, mother and to everyone living in the same household. Strengthening your baby’s digestion and yours is an important place to start.