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Natural Remedies for Colic

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Diaper rash, jaundice, gas, constipation. If your baby is fussy, one of these problems is likely the cause. Even the healthiest babies can wail nonstop for no apparent reason. But prolonged inconsolable crying is a sign of colic, an absolutely common (yet mysterious) pediatric condition.1Johnson JD, Cocker K, Change E. Infantile colic: recognition and treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2015;92(7):577-582. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2015/1001/p577.html Feelings of frustration and hopelessness are entirely normal when colic takes hold. Being unable to soothe a newborn is heart-wrenching for first-time parents, and coupled with loss of sleep, can be maddening. When you cannot determine the cause of your child’s discomfort, soothing strategies can be very effective.

What Is Colic?

Mother holds crying infant

You’ve done everything by the book. Your baby is fed, has a clean diaper, and appears perfectly healthy, yet she’s been howling for hours. Yes, all babies cry, but not like this. Inconsolable crying for more than three hours per day, more than three days per week, and more than three weeks may indicate colic.1Johnson JD, Cocker K, Change E. Infantile colic: recognition and treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2015;92(7):577-582. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2015/1001/p577.html

Nearly 20% of infants are affected by colic, with symptoms reaching their peak around six weeks of life and waning at about three months.2Banks JB, Rouster AS, Chee J. Infantile colic. StatPearls. 2023;Oct 29. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK518962 Colicky babies are in good health and growing normally. But colic crying can be incredibly frustrating and scary, as it’s frequently accompanied by high-pitched screaming, clenched fists, an arched back, a red face, or pale skin around the mouth.3Pitone ML. Colic. KidsHealth. 2023;Oct. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/colic.html Crying jags usually happen at the same time of day, often in the early evening.

Colic is typical among babies and will go away by three or four months of age. Regardless, call your pediatrician if your child has a fever of 100.4 or higher, is less alert or active than usual, isn’t eating, isn’t sucking vigorously when bottle- or breastfeeding, has loose or bloody stools, is throwing up, has lost weight (or can’t gain weight), or cannot be calmed in any way.3Pitone ML. Colic. KidsHealth. 2023;Oct. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/colic.html

Colic Remedies

After ruling out other health conditions, pediatricians have few pharmaceutical options. Two drugs available for colic have proven ineffective, and a third is contraindicated due to the risk of severe side effects.1Johnson JD, Cocker K, Change E. Infantile colic: recognition and treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2015;92(7):577-582. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2015/1001/p577.html

“The conventional approach is suppressing unwanted colic symptoms, which may include only supportive care or prescribing medicines to calm the gut,” says Desta Golden, ND, founder and CEO of Golden Health and Wellness, an integrative medicine consulting firm that supports mothers and children. “Naturopathic treatment focuses on addressing the underlying causes of colic and uses a holistic approach to help babies with colic heal.”

Parental support and reassurance are also helpful when it comes to treating colic. Dr. Golden explains how constant crying can be stressful for both first-time and seasoned parents.

“Parents may feel guilt or frustration,” she says. “It’s important to remember colic is nobody’s fault, and family members should not blame themselves or the infant for crying. I also remind parents to never shake a baby, and if they are feeling especially frustrated, they should put the fussy baby in the crib and call for help. Support is available.”

A Natural Approach for Relieving Colic

Four of Dr. Golden’s go-to natural remedies include a few items you might have at home:

  1. Probiotics to help support digestive health
  2. Soothing tea, like fennel or chamomile, if breastfeeding
  3. Natrum Phosphoricum (cell salt), a homeopathic remedy that soothes hyperacidity, acid reflux, indigestion, and gas
  4. Castor oil stomach massages

In addition to these trusted treatments, Dr. Golden identifies food sensitivities with patients and often recommends an elimination diet. “It’s important to reduce processed foods and sugar as much as possible while focusing on whole foods, especially veggies, to ensure a diverse microbiome.”

Mother massages baby's stomach

Some caregivers use gripe water—a mix of baking soda, water, and herbs like fennel, ginger, chamomile, and lemon balm—to ease colic. Gripe water is not approved for treating colic, and there is virtually no research on its efficacy. A 2015 cross-sectional study found gripe water more harmful than helpful, showing a higher incidence of vomiting, constipation, and other potential health risks.4Jain K, Gunasekaran D, Venkatesh C, Soundararajan P. Gripe water administration in infants 1-6 months of age—a cross-sectional study. J Clin Diagn Res. 2015;9(11):SC06-SC8. https://doi.org/10.7860/JCDR/2015/13727.6738

“I also talk to parents about their stress levels and propose effective stress management techniques,” Dr. Golden says. “I help [them] develop positive coping strategies to reduce frustration and soothe. The goal is a happy, healthy family.”

The Colic Checklist

A natural approach can help a colicky infant; however, parents should prioritize simple soothing strategies that reduce crying:

  1. First, make sure your baby isn’t hungry, tired, or wearing a dirty diaper.
  2. Burp your baby often when feeding.
  3. Experiment with bottles that reduce air intake.
  4. Consult your healthcare provider about different formulas.
  5. Reduce your intake of caffeine, dairy, soy, egg, nuts, and wheat while breastfeeding.
  6. Rock, walk, talk, or sing to your child.
  7. Try a pacifier.
  8. Go for a walk with baby in the stroller.
  9. Hold your child to your chest and take slow, deep breaths.
  10. Gently rub baby with safe essential oils, coconut oil, or warm water.
  11. Give your child a warm bath.
  12. Carefully place baby face down across your lap, rubbing their back with gentle pressure.
  13. Put your infant in a vibrating seat or swing.
  14. Place baby in the carrier and go for a car ride.
  15. Play classical music, white noise, or another calming sound.

You may be frustrated, scared, or questioning your caregiving skills, but know you’re not alone. Moms and dads around the world have survived colic for thousands of years. Excessive crying is not an indication of poor parenting.

With knowledge comes peace of mind. A naturopathic approach can reveal valuable clues for colic relief as you explore the best methods for soothing your child.

Experience the benefits of personalized natural healthcare with a trusted, licensed naturopathic doctor in your area.
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Experience the benefits of personalized natural healthcare with a trusted, licensed naturopathic doctor in your area.
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Footnotes

This article is provided by

The Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. INM’s mission is to transform health care in the United States by increasing public awareness of natural medicine and access to naturopathic doctors. Naturopathic medicine, with its person-centered principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness overwhelming healthcare systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain optimal lifelong health. INM strives to fulfil this mission through the following initiatives:

  • Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of evidence-based natural medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research on this complex and comprehensive system of medicine

About The Author(s)

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Institute for Natural Medicine Staff

Our dedicated content team of professional staff writers represents decades of experience covering essential natural health topics in an accessible, evidence-based, and engaging way. Guided by a shared passion for holistic well-being, each and every one of our writers strives to empower our readers to take charge of their health.

Supported by a rigorous fact-checking and medical editing process from licensed naturopathic doctors that examines the latest in peer-reviewed research, our team brings their in-depth knowledge of natural health practices into every piece of content we produce. We strive to be the gold standard for evidence-based natural medicine, providing trustworthy information and inspiring narratives to help you live your best health, naturally.

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