Breast milk is considered as – complete nutrition, for the baby. It has the right amount of everything that a baby can possibly need, at least for the first six months. The gut of a baby is very immature, and it can only digest human milk easily. Any other form of milk will be hard on the baby. However, sometimes digestion takes time and can be problematic.
Reflux is when a baby spits the content of the stomach. This usually occurs because the lower esophageal sphincter is very immature and the stomach is tiny, thus allowing the food to move back up and also due to anxiety especially in the mother. It is quite common in infants, and not a cause of concern as long as the baby is healthy and growing.
Colic is not just gas in the stomach. But it is a period of distress in a healthy baby due to relative absence of a healthy gut bacteria which doesn’t allow milk to be completely digested. Colic is more common in formula fed babies – as the supplements are harder on the digestive system of the baby. Even if the baby is formula fed, it is advised to put the baby on the breast for a few minutes each day as that improves the gut bacteria profile.
Etiology of colic:
❏ Imbalance in the healthy gut bacteria.
❏ Irregular feeding – baby is either overfed or under-fed.
❏ Food allergies.
❏ Lack of burping after a feed.
❏ Unknown stress or anxiety – which is often picked up from the mother or primary caregiver.
Foods mother has to avoid to reduce colic in the baby:
★ Aerated drinks – as they have a lot of carbon dioxide and/or toxins which can harm the digestion in the child.
★ Caffeinated drinks and/tea – they are stimulating drinks which can affect lactation producing gas and bloating in the baby.
★ Legumes especially partially cooked ones if eaten can cause gas or bloating in the baby.
★ Energy drinks or with too much chemicals and preservatives should be strictly avoided to ensure a healthy baby.
★ Junk food, spicy food, partially cooked food, oily food, leftover food – is best to be avoided.
Symptoms of colic:
▪ For diagnosing colic, doctors often look for the Rule of Threes – if the baby is crying for more than 3 hours per day, for more than 3 days per week, for more than 3 weeks consistently in an otherwise well fed and healthy baby.
▪ Fussy and cranky.
▪ High-pitched cry, louder than normal cry, more intense almost like screaming.
▪ Wants the nipple but rejects when given.
▪ Cries very often.
▪ Wants to be nursed or carried around all the time.
▪ Sleeping pattern is disturbed – the baby wakes up very often.
▪ Stool pattern may or may not be disturbed – green spinach like stool is often observed.
Management of colic:
▪ Post a feeding session, mothers should put the baby on their shoulders and pat the back slowly to allow burping and release of gas. If the baby sleeps while feeding, then this process can be skipped.
▪ Offer a pacifier or carry the baby around – because it is likely that the baby has anxiety, picked up either from the mother or the surrounding environment.
▪ Feed the baby in a dark room, with no noise – to avoid overstimulation of the baby’s senses.
▪ The mother should watch her food – it is possible that the baby may have food allergies.
▪ Lactose intolerance may also be a reason for colic.
▪ Feed the baby small amounts of milk – for more intervals – this might aid in digestion.