Dr Michaela palpating an infant's stomach for colic diagnosis

Chiropractic for Colicky Babies

When your baby is irritable all the time, it can get really frustrating. Parents with a colicky baby often don’t know how to help their baby feel better, and frequently worry that their baby is in pain. It’s a tough situation to be in, but chiropractic can help. 

 

What is colic?

Colic is a condition where a baby’s abdomen becomes distended and they are crying excessively (over 3 hours each day is considered excessive). Colic also produces excessive intestinal gas.

 

What are the symptoms of colic?

Babies with colic may show the following symptoms:

  • Excessive intestinal gas and constipation
  • Excessive crying from the discomfort 

 

What causes colic?

Your baby’s (and your) digestive system is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, which is composed of the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. When the baby is in a state of excessive sympathetic stimulation, or the baby’s parasympathetic nervous system is inhibited, they will often present with digestion difficulty.

 

Why does digestive difficulty happen in infants?

An infant’s immature nervous system can’t handle the stresses of everyday life. That means a baby gets overwhelmed with too much stimuli. Infants also have an immature digestive system, which can make it difficult to digest food. Stressed out babies can become colicky, just as adults can get stomach aches or constipation from unprocessed stress. 

 

How do you diagnose colic?

I had a 2-month-old patient that only had a bowel movement 5 times in her entire life! She went up to 10 days without a bowel movement once. She was very irritable (understandably so). Her mom was tired, she was tired.

 

She was very gassy, but had to work hard to release it. In order to diagnose her condition properly, I did the following:

  • Felt the abdomen for rigidity and looked for signs of distention
  • Took a history about the frequency of her bowel movements
  • Asked about excessive bowel gas, how long she cried each day, and the diet of her breastfeeding mother to explore the possibility of allergies

Fun fact about a nursing mom’s diet: A New Zealand study showed that chocolate and fruit were the foods most consistently eaten by mothers of babies with colic.

 

How does chiropractic treat colic?

For the 2-month-old mentioned above, I adjusted her sacrum and C1, and performed some cranial work and intestinal valve release. By the end of her appointment, baby had a large bowel movement.


Ever since the baby was adjusted, her bowel movements have been more regular and her personality has changed considerably, for the better. Mom is also so much happier: “The effects of the treatment were immediate. Starting that same day, my baby began to have regular BM's (sometimes multiple each day), started sleeping through the night and was much less fussy. Michaela is a master and I couldn't recommend her more!”

 

How does chiropractic treatment work with colic?

Adjustments at the occiput and sacrum stimulate the parasympathetics to encourage the baby to relax after periods of stress. Cranial work also helps to stimulate the parasympathetics which encourages relaxation of their intestinal sphincters.

 

Adjustments at C1 calm down sympathetics, calming the baby’s stress response.

 

How long will it take for my baby’s colic to resolve?

Research identified that 94% of colicky infants respond well to adjustments of C1 after an average of 3 adjustments in the span of 2 weeks. 

 

What can I do at home to help my baby with colic?

At-home care for colic includes:

  • Abdominal massage for the infant in a right to left motion like a rainbow
  • Bicycling the infant's legs
  • Adjusting mother’s diet if allergies are suspected
  • Gripe water that does not contain alcohol

 

Where can I learn more about colic and chiropractic?

If you want to learn all about chiropractic for children, check out the book Chiropractic Care for the Pediatric Patient published by the International Chiropractors Association Council on Chiropractic Pediatrics. The first chapter is written specifically for parents.

 

Do you have a colicky baby?

If your baby is crying excessively, or showing signs of digestive distress, Dr. Michaela can help. She specializes in chiropractic for babies, and can help your baby feel better fast. Make an appointment to see Dr. Michaela in our Aptos clinic.

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