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Colic: Herbal First Aid

Colic: Herbal First Aid

Colic is the boogeyman of new parents. All caregivers fear it. Colic is not life threatening, but the thought of spending 3 to 6 months with a screaming newborn chills the blood.

As a general rule, colic is very easy to detect. The colicky baby screams incessantly, turns red when crying, strains frequently as if trying to pass gas and sucks more for pacification than for hunger. A colicky baby is once in awhile, a quiet sufferer. This child will have trouble eating more than a few ounces at a time and seems to work hard at pooping.

Both the noisy and the quiet colicky baby may be otherwise healthy but can exhibit trouble gaining weight. Usually this condition disappears within the first 6 months. There are a few ways to ease the suffering of both the baby and the parents.

Herbal Treatment of Colic

Breastfeeding mothers have a little more wiggle room when it comes to treating colic. They also have to exercise more caution. Whatever Mom eats goes to the baby. Sometimes, colicky babies who are breastfed are reacting to Mom’s diet. Cabbage, dairy, or broccoli are a few examples of foods Mom could eat that might trigger a crying fit in a reactive child. Just adding probiotics such as yogurt or kefir might do the trick. On the other hand, drinking a nice cup of fennel tea might be just the thing to calm a colicky baby.

Parents who bottle feed their child may have trouble talking their baby into drinking fennel. While a whole cup of fennel tea may be required for an adult, a baby needs only 1/20 of an adult dose, the equivalent of 1 tablespoon of tea. It’s easy to stir a tablespoon of cooled fennel tea into an 8 oz. bottle with a little apple juice to mask the taste.

Although fennel is the first herb to turn to for comfort from colic, other herbs are also very helpful. Chamomile, catnip and  lemon balm are reliable, mild and soothing herbs for colicky babies. These herbs make a fine cup of tea for distressed parents too.

Some babies show “allergic” reactions to different foods or herbs as infants but don’t retain this reaction throughout childhood. Always introduce new herbs to your child’s life in small doses to see how he or she reacts. Half of a teaspoon may be an adequate first dose of cool tea diluted in water for a reactive baby.

lavender spikeDo not underestimate the power of peace. As parents and caregivers, we want our babies to be happy. We get frustrated with the screaming because it seems it’s an unsolvable problem. It’s possible your child might just have to work this out by developing a little more. This takes time and patience. Stay calm. Welcome to parenthood.

In order to keep yourself in a place of peace, try a little lavender essential oil. Just a drop at the base of the throat and a few deep breathes can reduce a stress load tremendously. Try a spritz of our Lavender Goodnight Spritzer recipe to reduce tension in the room. Lavender is a good herb to add to other items in a baby’s life. Try our Organic Baby Powder Recipe to maintain that sense of calm for your little one throughout the day.

Colic is stressful for everyone. Don’t isolate yourself. Call a friend. Stay connected. Believe in yourself. This too shall pass.

Herbs for Colic

  • Fennel seed
  • Chamomile
  • Catnip
  • Lavender essential oil – topical

Online Help for Parents of Colicky Children

 

Sue Sierralupe

Sue Sierralupé is a Certified Master Herbalist, Master Gardener and Sustainable Landscape Specialist. She is the clinic manager and lead herbalist at Occupy Medical clinic. Sue is author of The Pocket Herbal: Medicinal Plants that Changed the World and co-author of The Practical Herbalist Herbal Folios series. Follow her blog at Herbalism Manifesto for commentary on herbs, parenting, nutrition and a whole lot more.


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