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No Real Cure for Colic: Study

By Madeline Holler |

colic, homeopathy

No cures yet, but there are the three S's ... swaddle, shhh, sway.

Colic is one of the remaining mysteries of life. What is it? And, more importantly, how do you fix it?

Doctors think that somewhere around 20 percent of all babies have colic (though some anthropologists claim that it doesn’t exist in many cultures). If you’re one of the families who wound up with a colicky baby, you don’t care about statistics or what mothers in collectivist cultures do, you just want a remedy … now.

Here’s the problem: there still isn’t a cure for colic.

Though there are products on the market that claim to cure colic, a new study concludes that most don’t work. The ones that do? Well, they’re curing something besides colic, such as gastric reflux or protein allergies.

A review of 15 studies on curing colic shows that folk remedies not only don’t cure colic, but, because they’re not regulated, may be putting the baby at risk.

Researchers from the University of Exeter in England published their findings online in the latest edition of The Journal of Pediatrics. Overall, 1,000 infants were treated with various alternative treatments, massage, and chiropractic techniques that had been advertised as able to reduce or eliminate colic.

The meta-study found these other studies weren’t rigorously conducted and had enough limitations to be inconclusive. It was also difficult to know whether it was a remedy that worked or time, the only thing that cured colic 100 percent of the time.

A few remedies showed a bit of promise, though the authors of the larger study said they would need further testing in order to conclude efficacy. Those remedies included fennel extract, herbal teas and sugar water.

Books and doctors often promise colic goes away by 4 months of age, some parents report colic into their baby’s 9th month.

Photo: xzordroyd via flickr

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About Madeline Holler


Madeline Holler

Madeline Holler is a writer, journalist, and blogger. She has written for Babble since the site launched in 2006. Her writing has appeared in various other publications both online and in print, including Salon and True/Slant (now Forbes). A native of the Midwest, Madeline lives, writes, and parents in Southern California, where she's raising two daughters and a son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Madeline's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “No Real Cure for Colic: Study

  1. Autoclave says:

    Oh man colic. I am SO SCARED of it, even though my baby is still gestating. My MIL has told me repeatedly that my husband was a very colic-y baby. I wasn’t, but I worry about a genetic correlation of some kind. I have no clue what I am going to do about it if it happens. Right now I’m just trying not to think about it yet because nothing’s happened yet *crosses fingers*.

  2. Gretta says:

    My daughter had colic, and this is something that could use a solution. However, I don’t know how you can ethically conduct research on tiny infants! We tried a lot of things (no herbal remedies, our pediatrician was not a fan and as a 1st-time mom I was wary of trying something that wasn’t doctor-approved), and several things seemed to help a little, but there was still a lot of anguish for her and us. I wouldn’t wish colic on anyone. It did eventually go away (for us it was more like 6 months than 4). The best advice I have for anyone with a colicky baby is to make sure you have a good support system and take little breaks whenever you can (I would take a quick walk around the block when my husband got home from work).

  3. bettywu says:

    Sadly this will not dissuade those making money hand over fist by peddling magic water (homeopathic) remedies to those desperate for a way to stop the screaming. So sleazy.

  4. Paul Blake ND says:

    One simple remedy for colic and one of the possible causes has been known for years. This particular cause is the intestinal flora in the babies gut is out of balance causing poor digestion and gas pain. The remedy is simple probiotics (see study below) that you can find at any health food store, I have seen it work almost immediately. Buy only refrigerated for freshness as they tend to be of the better quality.

    Poor Intestinal Flora Symptoms: irritability, bloating, abdominal pain, foul smelling bowel movements, constipation/diarrhea, food sensitivities, rectal itching, spitting-up, poor immunity

    Colic Symptoms: crying suddenly after a feeding, crying is loud and continuous for one to four hours, baby’s face often is flushed or red, hands clenched, belly is distended or prominent, the feet are often cold, baby may arch their backs, draw up their legs to their tummy, extend their legs rigidly, pass wind.

    A 2010 scientific study published in the Journal of Pediatrics reports the effectiveness of a probiotic treatment for colic. The authors report states that the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri significantly reduced crying time among infants with colic, compared to placebo. The subjects included 50 exclusively breast-fed infants, that were administered either L. reuteri or a placebo.
    Savino F, Cordisco L, Tarasco V, et al. Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 in infantile colic: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Pediatrics. 2010;126(3):e526-e533.

    Doc Blake

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