Coping with Colic: A Western and Chinese Medicine View


Colic is one of those conditions in babies which is no easier to deal with just because it is common. The cause of crying bouts which can last for 3 hours or more and typically occurs from age 2 to 16 weeks is officially unknown, however many aggravating factors have been identified.

Top of the list for breast fed babies are foods in the mother’s diet. A baby’s digestive and immune systems are very immature at birth and some babies just can’t cope with some substances. Look out for cow’s milk, cauliflower, broccoli, chocolate, and onions. Chemicals such as caffeine and nicotine are also implicated. For a bottle fed baby choose a hydrolysed cow’s milk formula. The hydrolysation process breaks the difficult to digest casein protein in cow’s milk into digestible components. Even then it may be necessary to try a few different products until a compatible formula is found.

In Chinese medicine this condition is considered to be a “Ji” or accumulation disorder. The immature digestive system cannot cope with the volume or quality of food leading to an accumulation in the bowels and pain. This condition is made worse by overfeeding – a situation which can arise if every cry is treated as a hungry cry. Treatment is often simple. A series of acupuncture points are quickly stimulated with a very fine pin, and other points are treated with laser. Typically the baby has a large bowel motion a couple of days after the treatment and symptoms subside. Usually a couple of treatments and appropriate dietary changes are all that is needed. This same approach is often effective for reflux as well.

A few other factors should always be considered. If the mother has had antibiotics due to mastitis or other infections, then the baby has had antibiotics as well and should be given a suitable baby probiotic. Cow’s milk should always be suspected, especially in reflux. Often adults with dairy intolerance will report how they had reflux as a baby. For further ideas on how to cope with colic look up www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au.