by Danielle Fink, DC
One of my very first memories is of my mom laying my brand new baby sister down on our couch so that I could get a better look at her. She was so tiny and beautiful; I remember it like it was yesterday. But wow did she have some lungs on her! My sister was diagnosed with colic — she was an otherwise healthy well-fed infant who would cry uncontrollably for hours at a time. My mom and dad tried everything that the doctor recommended; she was taken off of breast milk and fed soy formula, but to no avail. Eventually, probably around 4 months, or so (although it felt much longer) my sister finally grew out of the colic and things returned to normal.
I tried my best to forget about this trying time in my family’s life until I was sitting in class at chiropractic school one day and discovered that colic could be helped by chiropractic. From that day on I made it my mission to learn as much as I could about how I could help children with chiropractic care, including 132 hours of education and certification outside of school in pediatrics and the care of pregnant women from the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (I.C.P.A.).
A few months ago, I had another occasion to help a baby and his family with this dreaded diagnosis. We will call the baby Alex. Alex was delivered by vacuum extraction and as a result his head was formed into a peak. His mom reported that Alex would cry uncontrollably for hours especially in the early evenings and late at night and no matter what she did, she couldn’t calm him. She stated that he didn’t sleep well, but he didn’t appear to have any trouble breastfeeding. Alex’s mom also described him as a baby who was difficult to calm, whenever she would put him down he would fuss and want to be picked up.
After just one adjustment Alex’s mom noticed some small changes and during the next few weeks the crying became more controllable, Alex’s digestion improved as well as his sleep. Alex’s mom also reported that Alex appeared to be more alert and happy and when she would lay him down he was perfectly content to lie there and just look around.
Alex is now in wellness care and he has not experienced any colic symptoms for over two months! His head is now a normal shape instead of coming to a peak and although he is currently teething, he is generally a very happy baby! In fact, when he comes into the office with his big blue eyes and sweet smile, you cannot help but melt!
Colic-like chronic ear infections, bedwetting, ADHD, asthma and allergies, as well as many other childhood and adult afflictions, including pain, are signals from the body trying to tell us that something is not quite right. As a chiropractor, my goal is to gently remove the interference to my patient’s nervous system so that their body can heal itself without medication and the side effects that often accompany their use. Just as cuts on the outside of the body can heal on their own without help, so can problems inside the body, once any interference to that power is removed. Remember, nature needs no help, no interference.
Dr. Danielle Fink is certified in pediatrics and chiropractic care during pregnancy as well as the Webster Technique. She is a member of the Wisconsin Chiropractic Association and the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association.
Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body’s systems, although many herbs that may be safe for adults may NOT be suitable for infants. As with any therapy, you should work with the baby’s health care provider to get the problem diagnosed before starting any treatment. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas) or glycerites (glycerine extracts). Because of the alcohol content, do not give tinctures (alcohol extracts) to infants unless directed by your health care provider. Unless otherwise indicated, make teas with 1 tsp. of herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5-10 minutes for leaf or flowers and 10-20 minutes for roots. Drink two to four cups per day.
Inform your child’s pediatrician about any herbs you may be using for your child and work with a qualified health care provider to develop the safest and most effective home remedy kit for your family.
You may give a tea made from fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare) directly to the infant (1 tsp. before and after feedings) after it cools, or a breastfeeding mother can drink it (1 cup three to six times per day). Fennel acts as a gastrointestinal relaxant and helps expel gas.
Few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic remedies. However, a professional homeopath may recommend one or more of the following treatments for infantile colic based on his or her knowledge and clinical experience.
• Viburcol — a proprietary homeopathic medicine often used in Europe, can be very effective for acute colic. It contains Chamomilla, Belladonna, Dulcamara, Plantago major, Pulsatilla, and Calcium carbonicum Hahnemanni.
• Aethusa — for infants who cannot digest milk, who vomit, and have diarrhea.
• Belladonna — for colic with spasms that come and go quickly. The abdomen may feel warm to the touch and symptoms may coincide with constipation. Bending forward may relieve pain.
• Bryonia — for pain worsened by movement and pressure. This remedy is most appropriate for irritable infants who lie still with knees drawn up.
• Carbo vegetabilis — for colic with a distended abdomen and burping or belching. The face may be pale, and hands and feet feel cold.
• Chamomilla — for excessively irritable and screaming infants who are relieved by constant holding and rocking. Infants for whom this remedy is appropriate are often teething and have green, foul-smelling diarrhea.
• Colocynthis — for restless, irritable infants whose symptoms of colic are relieved by firm pressure. In these infants, diarrhea and pain may occur after eating fruit. Infant tends to bring knees up to their abdomen.
• Lycopodium — for infants who cannot stand pressure on the abdomen (even diapers must be worn loosely). Symptoms tend to worsen between 4 and 8 p.m. and then again after midnight.
• Magnesia phos — for infants whose symptoms of colic are relieved with gentle pressure or warmth applied to the abdomen, or while they are bent over. Belching does not relieve pain.
• Natrum phos — for colic with no other distinguishing symptoms.
• Nux vomica — for colic that occurs when a breastfeeding mother eats rich food, drinks alcohol, or coffee. The infant may arch its back and appear angry.
• Pulsatilla — for infants with bloated abdomens after eating, and constipation alternating with diarrhea. May be aggravated by warm rooms, heat, or if the diet of the breastfeeding mother includes fruits, fats, pastries, or ice cream. Relieved by rocking.
Teas and Liquids Made with the Following Herbs May Also Help:
• Chamomile (Matricaria recutita ), vervain (Verbena officinalis), fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). Give about ½ cup of tea up to three times per day.
• Caraway (Carum carvi) helps reduce intestinal cramping. Combine 1 tsp. of caraway seed with 8 ounces boiled water and steep for 10 minutes. Add 3 ounces of vegetable glycerin. Strain and give a ½ teaspoon 15 minutes before feeding.
• Other herbs that may help reduce calm the baby or reduce gas include linden (Tilia cordata), catnip (Nepeta cataria), peppermint (Mentha piperita), and dill (Anethum graveolens). They can be combined with the teas above.
• Slippery elm bark (Ulmus fulva) helps soothe the digestive system and can be used as a tea. You can also combine the powdered bark with water and make a meal of slippery elm “gruel,” similar in consistency to instant oatmeal. Check with your child’s pediatrician first before using slippery elm gruel in your child’s diet.