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Breastfeeding and Colic

colic, colic and breastfeeding, active letdown reflux, fore milk, hind milk, lactose intolerant, formula fed baby, similac formula, cramping in baby, gas in baby, excess air in baby, proper latch, proper breastfeeding position, proper nursing positions,

This photo shows proper latch.

A recent headline caught my attention, “Breastfeeding is a Cause of Colic.” What?!? We’ve all read that “breast is best” (it even says it in Similac literature) so why would do something that was so good for your baby, cause something so terrible as colic? I continued to read and was interested to find out that it’s not so much breastfeeding–it’s the way that you may be doing it. As a mother of two who nursed both kids until they were one, I feel that I’m somewhat of a veteran. But after reading the aforementioned article, I realized I still had a lot to learn.

First, lets make sure we’re on the same page as to what colic is. Wikipedia defines it as:

Colic (also known as infant colic, three month colic, and Infantile colic) is a condition in which an otherwise healthy baby cries or screams frequently and, for extended periods, without any discernible reason. The condition typically appears within the first two weeks of life and almost invariably disappears, often very suddenly, before the baby is three to four months old, but can last up to 12 months of life. It is equally common in bottle-fed and breastfed babies.

Now, let’s go over the facts on why breastfeeding may lead to it:

Fact 1: A baby needs a good latch.

If your baby isn’t latched on to the breast properly, they can inhale air while nursing. This extra air can cause an excess of gas, which can lead to irritably in the stomach–resulting in colic.

Fact 2: Active Letdown Reflux

When you go too long between feedings, your breasts become engorged. When your baby latches on to nurse, milk can come shooting out, resulting in air being pushed down in your baby’s stomach. This can cause cramping–and colic. Make sure to feed often so your breasts don’t become too full.

Fact 3: Fore Milk

This fact was the most interesting to me–the milk that comes out of your breast first (fore milk) is thinner, and made-up of sugar (lactose). As your baby continues to feed, the rich hind milk comes, which is full of the fatty nutrients that your baby needs. If you take your baby off the breast too soon, they may only be getting the fore milk. This I knew, but here’s the interesting part; the article states, “[the baby’s] bodies are not capable of breaking this down, which often leads to gas and bloating. It can even lead to very soft stools or diarrhea. Fore milk is low in caloric content, and because of this your baby will end up being hungrier sooner. This, in turn, makes him or her more likely to attack the breast, which can result in a poor latch, leading to air and gas that cause symptoms of colic.” The solution? Nurse on one breast–you don’t have to switch your baby to the other breast. Drain the one to make sure that your baby has gotten the hind milk. If your baby is still hungry, start on your other breast.

Hopefully, one of these strategies will help your baby to be a happier nurser and reduce the chances of him/her having colic. If none of the above work, you can always start eliminating certain foods from your diet–spice, gluten, dairy–one by one. And make sure to keep track of the crying spells–you may see a pattern.

All in all–good luck, and hang in there.

For more breastfeeding help. . .

Click on the About.com photo gallery which shows you correct breastfeeding positions.

Check out our story on Essentials to make Breastfeeding Easier.

Click here to find the La Leche League in your area.

*Please note that this advice does not replace your doctor’s–always ask and follow your doctor’s orders.

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