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Published by Bupa's health information team, June 2009.
Answers to questions about colic
This section contains answers to common questions about this topic. Questions have been suggested by health professionals, website feedback and requests via email.
Does colic run in families?
It may do. Some of the possible causes of colic may have a small risk of being inherited.
Problems with the digestive system causing abdominal (tummy) pain and intolerance to lactose are possible reasons why your baby may develop colic. It's rare, but sometimes lactose intolerance can run in families. Therefore, if you or your partner is intolerant to lactose there is a very small chance your baby may be too.
Another possible cause of colic is because of your baby's temperament. However, although your baby does inherit personality characteristics from you and your partner, it's unlikely that this has any influence on whether or not your baby gets colic.
Can feeding your baby the wrong way cause colic?
Yes. It's possible that if your baby isn't properly attached to the mother's breast or if he/she doesn't get enough of the different types of breast milk, this may lead to colic.
Breast milk consists of foremilk and hindmilk. Foremilk is the first milk your baby gets when he or she starts breastfeeding and is more watery and contains less fat and more carbohydrate and lactose. Hindmilk is the milk that your baby drinks after feeding for a while and is thicker and higher in fat. Your baby needs this kind of breast milk as it provides energy for longer. It may also be more soothing.
If your baby isn't properly attached to the mother's breast when feeding, the breast won't empty properly and he or she won't get enough of the hindmilk. Your baby will feel hungry again sooner and so will have another low-fat feed of foremilk. This means there is more lactose for your baby to digest and this may make colic more likely.
If you change the breast that your baby is feeding from halfway through a feed, this also means your baby won't get enough hindmilk. It's important to let your baby finish feeding completely from one breast and only move onto the next if he or she still appears hungry.
- The infantile colic debate. GP-Plus. www.gpplus.com, accessed 19 January 2009
I'm breastfeeding - could my diet be causing my baby's colic?
If you're breastfeeding, there is a small chance that certain foods that you eat may cause your baby to develop the symptoms of colic. However, it's important not to cut out lots of foods from your diet as this may mean you aren't getting enough of certain nutrients.
There is limited evidence that in some babies colic may be caused by lactose intolerance. If you're breastfeeding, you could try to remove cows' milk (which contains lactose) from your diet to see if it improves your baby's symptoms.
You may wish to try adding lactase drops to breast milk in a bottle. If you're bottle-feeding your baby, you can add lactase drops to formula milk. Lactase breaks down lactose in the body and can improve symptoms in some babies. You can buy lactase from a pharmacy - always read the patient information leaflet and if you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.
It's possible that if you're breastfeeding, cutting out milk, eggs, wheat and nuts from your diet may help your baby's symptoms. If you're bottle-feeding, you could try using a hypoallergenic formula. However, there is only limited evidence to show that this is effective. Don't cut out cows' milk or any other food group from your diet or your baby's without speaking to your GP or health visitor first.
Some mothers suggest that eating less of foods such as broccoli, onions and cabbage, which produce a lot of gas, may improve colic. It's possible that eating less spicy food and drinking less caffeine may help. However, there is no scientific evidence to show that these have any benefit.
This information was published by Bupa's health information team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been peer reviewed by Bupa doctors. The content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
Publication date: June 2009