Why Won't My Baby Stop Screaming? Herbal Help for Colicy Infants

If you have ever had a colicy baby, you know what a helpless feeling it is to see and hear your baby seemingly suffering and not be able to soothe him. Add to this that colicy babies leave you sleep deprived and exhausted, and a new parent would do anything for a cure. The cure is actually very inexpensive, and very safe, and available at your nearest health food store or pharmacy.

What is Colic?

Colic is defined as infant crying at least three hours daily, three days a week, for more than three weeks. Colic usually occurs between 3 weeks and 3 months of age, and affects 15-30% of newborns. While not physically damaging, it can be emotionally devastating.

While no one definitive cause for colic has been found, it may be caused by gassiness in the intestines. A colicy baby will sometimes stiffen and arch his back as if he is in pain. Most babies can be soothed by holding or rocking, but not a colicy baby. Nothing seems to soothe them.

Is There A Natural Cure for Colic?

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is the most frequently recommended herbal remedy for infantile colic relief. The effectiveness of fennel is due to the fact that it has a high percent of volatile oils. The fennel seeds contains the highest concentration of fennel oil (between 2% and 7%). The main chemicals in fennel seed oil are: anethole (40% to 70%), fenchone (10% to 30%), and estragole, (2% to 9%). Fennel oil has a chemical structure similar to that of a naturally occuring body chemical called dopamine, which relaxes the intestines. The anethole in fennel has also been shown in studies to have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-carcinogenic effects.

Is it Safe?

Fennel is effective and very safe. No toxic reactions to the use of fennel have ever been reported. A safe dosage for a baby weighing 10 pounds is 20 to 40 milligrams daily. Fennel extract is usually added to each bottle of milk, or can be given orally. Fennel extract has a taste similar to licorice, and is tolerated well when given by mouth. Fennel seed oil has been on the FDA's "Generally Recommended As Safe" list of flavorings in the U.S. since the 1970's. Since 1948, there have been fewer than 10 cases of allergic reaction to fennel. The allergens are only present in the unprocessed seed, and none are found in fennel seed extract.

New Research Confirms its Effectiveness

One hundred twenty-five colicky babies, ranging from 2 to 12 weeks old, were studied at two large clinics in St. Petersburg, Russia. All were diagnosed with bouts of crying that lasted at least 3 hours for at least 3 days a week. One group of 65 babies was given a fennel seed oil preparation; the other 60 babies received a placebo water treatment. Parents kept symptom diaries for 3 weeks: the week before, the week during, and the week after the trial. At the end of the period, 40 of 62 infants (65 percent) in the fennel group were significantly improved after 7 days of treatment; 14 of 59 infants (24 percent) in the placebo group improved. No side effects were reported. SOURCE: Prevention Magazine


What is "Gripe Water"

Gripe Water is a concoction used for hundreds of years to aid in the cure of colic and indigestion. Add one teaspoon of fennel seed, one tablespoon of light corn syrup to one quart of water. Boil for 20 minutes, and let cool. When cool, strain off the seeds and make as many 2 oz. bottles as possible. If you are using mixable formula, you can use this to mix the formula instead of adding extract. Discard any unused gripe water after 24 hours.

While is is always best to have your baby checked out by a doctor to make sure that what you are experiencing is colic, in a large majority of cases, the above remedies will work to soothe the infant until you can seek medical help.

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