Patient Blog, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding | Apr 30 2024

Breastfeeding to prevent colic 

Being a parent is like being a detective, you must continually look for clues to figure out what is going on with your child—especially when that child is too young to talk to you. This can be totally overwhelming when your child has colic.  

What is colic?

Colic is not fully understood from a medical perspective, but it is fully understood by any parent who has had a colicky baby. Colic is the frequent and intense crying or fussiness for no obvious reason in your otherwise healthy baby. It often occurs at night when both the baby and parents are tired and typical occurs between six weeks to four months of age.  

Sometimes there is relief after the baby passes gas or has a bowel movement. It is unclear if this is from intestinal discomfort or just because the baby swallowed so much air in the crying. Possible nutrition-related causes of colic include an immature digestive system, imbalance of healthy bacteria, food allergies or intolerances, overfeeding, underfeeding, and inconsistent feeding.  

Colic and breastfeeding

One unintended complication of colic is stopping breastfeeding earlier than intended. So, what can you do as a breastfeeding mom to help prevent and reduce your baby’s colic?  

  • Continue breastfeeding! Your breastmilk is the best way to help provide healthy bacteria to your baby’s gut. It is the easiest thing for your baby to digest and supports an immature digestive tract.  
  • Be willing to explore food allergies, intolerances, and/or sensitivities. I know this seems like an overwhelming rabbit hole. A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) can help you determine how to go about doing this based on what is going on with your baby. Some possible foods that could be triggering the colic are dairy, gluten, soy, spicy foods, or gas-forming foods. This means that mom’s diet would have to change, and that baby’s solid food diet (if applicable) would need to change. Identifying the best place to start and approaching these changes in a safe and practical way is essential— ask your RDN how to start.  
  • Practice on-demand feeding, regardless of feeding method (breastmilk, formula, or solid foods). This means honoring the baby’s hunger and fullness cues instead of feeding them on a tight schedule. Sometimes you have days when you’re more hungry and less hungry. Your baby is no different. Help them listen to their bodies and eat when they’re hungry then stop when they’re full.  
  • Try gas drops for gas relief if you’ve observed that the baby has symptom relief after gas.  
  • Approach it like a detective – with an open mind and ready to pivot. It will take some trial and error but as you learn more about your baby you may have some of your own ideas to help.  

Managing colic can be extremely stressful as a parent. Reach out to a dietitian or your pediatrician if you feel like you’ve tried everything. Don’t give up, breastfeeding mama!  

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About Courtney Lee

Courtney Lee, MS, RDN, CLT, CFCS has a virtual private practice specializing in personalized nutrition and anti-inflammatory diets. She loves helping people use nutrition to change their lives and enjoys empowering other RDNs to do the same!

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