Starting at about 3 weeks old, my little guy started having the worst time in the evenings. He would fuss all night long and writhe in agony trying to get out his gas bubbles. His little face would turn red and every muscle in his tiny body would tense up. I tried all of the basics…feed, burp, change…to no avail. I rocked him, swaddled him, cuddled him. We were dealing with the dreaded “colic”.
Oxford Dictionary defines Colic as: severe, often fluctuating pain in the abdomen caused by intestinal gas or obstruction in the intestines and suffered especially by babies.
All I knew was that I was exhausted and so upset that my little guy was in pain and inconsolable. Just like every mother all I wanted was for him to feel better and to be able to get some sleep. I was running on empty and looking like death, I had to find a natural remedy and fast! I searched all over the internet & got advice from everyone from the Midwife to Grandma. Here is everything that I learned about newborn digestion & things I tried to help my guy feel better.
Newborn digestion is a tricky thing…Before birth, the digestive tract of the fetus is sterile, but within hours of birth, the baby acquires a complex collection of microorganisms which populate the mouth—then eventually the full length of the tract will be colonized. The development of specific microorganisms is influenced by the exposure to certain factors such as infants diet (breastfed vs. formula), environmental contact, mode of delivery (vaginal vs. cesarean) and the maternal microbiota. According to new research, a mother’s gut microbiota may transfer and colonise newborn infants intestines in the first few days after birth. Here is a great article if you want to learn more about the science behind maternal microbiota.
My Midwife suggested probiotics since my little guy didn’t get a chance to get exposed to maternal microbiota. His head was only in the birth canal for a short time (check out Baby Kihre’s Birthing Story), 82 minutes from start to finish. You can give newborns probiotics in two ways. One is to increase the probiotic intake of the mother. This will pass to the baby through breast milk. Some sources of probiotics are fermented foods are Miso, Kefir, Ginger Beer, Tempeh, Fermented Cheeses, Kimchi, Sauerkraut and Kombucha. The second method is through powder supplements that can be added to breast milk or water. Parveen suggested Biogaia & HMF Natogen.
Another source of digestive discomfort can be to food allergies. There are a variety of food allergies that your baby can be allergic to. Since I am breastfeeding I had to take a very close look at my diet. While generally good, I still ate trigger foods that can be linked to allergies in not only babies but adults as well. Dairy products, eggs, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts…since I am mostly vegetarian I this seriously limited what I could eat. However it is a blessing in disguise. These are all foods that I needed to eliminate any how. This is just a serious kick in the butt to do so and fast.
After eliminating dairy from my diet I noticed that the slimy goo that had been in little mans poo was gone. It took about two weeks to totally eliminate the effects of the lactose.
Soy, wheat & peanuts were easy to eliminate. I usually only consume them or bi-products of them when I have my cake, cookie, pie breakdowns. Since I haven’t been able to detox for about a year now, it has gotten worse. This chick that mostly eats more like a rabbit than a human, has terrible sweet cravings. I cannot wait to be able to do a good thorough cleanse but it is totally out of the question while pregnant or breastfeeding. When I am ready I will do the Ancient Cleanse, it is amazing.
Gripewater is one of the remedies that other moms swear by. I have heard it tauted as a “miracle for mommys”. There are many different brands and some are “better than others” or have less harmful ingredients than others. So like everything I researched to find the best for my baby and I could not find one that was 100% Free of unnecessary stuff. Actually most of the products out there are full of bad ingredients. The least of all of the evils that I found is Mommy’s Bliss Gripewater. The ingredients are Deionized water, ginger extract, vegetable glycerin, sodium bicarbonate, citrus bioflavonoid extract, citric acid, potassium sorbate and natural fennel flavor. Sounds pretty harmless right? For the most part yes…however citrus bioflavonoid extract and citric acid are both known to come from GMO sources & potassium sorbate, although said to be one of the safer preservatives is linked to allergic reactions, headaches, diarrhea & nausea.
For one week I used the Mommy’s Bliss, because I was exhausted and I was being lazy, no other excuse. It helped just like everyone said it would. He went from 2 hour stretches of sleep to 4 hours. I was so relieved that he was getting peace and no longer in pain. I also knew that I needed to find out a natural alternative to what was available in the store. Below is what I used in my homemade gripewater and why. I have had the same success with my natural version as I have with the store version with preservatives. Check out the full Homemade Gripewater Recipe here.
- Ginger. This soothes tummy troubles like gas, indigestion, colic, and diarrhea.
- Chamomile. This calming flower reduces inflammation and may help baby relax.
- Fennel. This helps to prevent or reduce gas.
- Vegetable Glycerin. This adds sweetness to mixture, helps a bit to relieve any constipation, assists in thickening the mixture up a bit, and makes the gripe water last a little longer. Be sure to use food grade vegetable glycerin. If you’re unable to get any (or don’t want to use it), use coconut sugar or another natural sweetener (no honey until baby is over a year old) instead to sweeten the mixture (I also would NOT use any sweeteners like stevia, xylitol, or erythritol as these might only add to the problem).
- Cinnamon. Combats indigestion and gas.
- Clove. Helps against bloating and indigestion and also has a mild pain relieving effect. I didn’t use this in my recipe because I didn’t have it on hand but you can try if you like.
OK SO NOW WHAT
So even after introducing probiotics & eliminating almost every food allergen known to man, he was still having digestive issues. They had gotten better but I was still not happy with his comfort level…neither was he. Below are some other ways to help ease your little ones discomfort:
- Always feed the baby in an elevated position where his head is above his stomach. This will help to keep the gas bubbles in the upper digestive tract making it easier to burp rather than come out in the form of gas later.
- Burping is so very important and often overlooked, especially during late night feedings. But if you skip burping, the air bubbles will travel into the lower digestive tract and have no choice but to come out the bottom. Since the intestines are so long, it is often a painful, long process. This will cause a sleepless night and a squirmy, fussy baby.
- Exercise…Yes! Exercise! Baby exercises are a great way to help your little one work out gas & help the elimination process. There are lots of exercises, twists & stretches that will work. Just remember that the large intestine is on the right side just below the rib cage. It is important to always twist or stretch the right side first to stimulate the large intestine, then to the left side to help everything move through the small intestine. Check out the video of Kih’s Poopie Dance. Yes the Poopie Dance, stay at home moms are weird & have a language all their own.
- Massage can help move gas too! Tapping and gently massaging the belly in a rainbow motion from left to right (babies right to left) will help stimulate the intestines and get things moving. Tapping on the back can help too. Here is a video of the tapping motion.
My lil guy likes to be in a down dog position while having his tummy massaged.
- Essential Oils, diffused or used topically. Peppermint is a great essential oil for digestion & Lavender or Chamomile are both great for calming. I use Peppermint Cream when massaging. It is actually a foot cream but ti has both peppermint & lavender essential oils. You should consult with your physician or midwife before using any essential oils on your newborn or child. I also recommend a skin patch test when using essential oils on anyone for the first time. Check out our medical disclaimer here.
- Warm compresses on the lower abdomen or lower back can help relax and soothe as well as provide acupressure to the tummy. I use a Lavender Eye Pillow warmed. Do not over heat as you can burn the baby’s sensitive skin. Never put the pillow directly on the skin. I wrap it in a burp cloth and carefully monitor the amount of heat coming through.
All this being said…every child is different, so what works for my little one may not work for yours. We have been through trial & error, lots of it. It is good to try one method of comfort for a few days to see if it works. If it does then continue, if not stop and try other means of comfort. Sometimes I think that most of our success comes from nothing more than his digestive system maturing. I will say that patience is the most important virtue. Staying calm & collected will help your little one feel reassured that everything is going to be ok. If you are frustrated it will be felt by your baby. Just remember that you can & will get through this. Peace is just around the corner.
Totally comment and let us know what has worked for you and your bambinos.