Can a Breastfeeding Mom's Diet Trigger Colic?

You know it when you see it: The gut-wrenching-hours-long crying of an infant that appears to be in pain...COLIC. Anyone who has had a baby with colic (or been around one) can attest to the stress that surrounds this medical mystery.

Many new mothers may ask themselves, "Is my diet causing this?" Especially if you're nursing! Perhaps it's the dark chocolate bar you munched on or the creamer you added to your cup of coffee that's the culprit?! To find the answer, we need to understand what colic is first…

What is Colic?

Colic is poorly understood but is classically defined by doctors as an unknown condition causing a healthy baby to cry for more than three hours per day, three days per week and lasting more than three weeks.

It typically starts at two weeks of life, peaks at six weeks and then resolves by 3-4 months.

What Causes Colic?

There are many theories that try to explain the cause of colic. In truth, it's usually provoked by a combination of too much stimulation plus too much quiet (too little 4th trimester rhythmic calming). During the first 4 months, all babies - especially fussy ones - do best with hours and hours of holding, rocking, shushing…like they enjoyed in the womb.

In addition, about 10% of the time, a baby’s screams can be set off by a formula allergy (dairy or soy) or acid reflux.

Can a Breastfeeding Mom's Diet Trigger Colic?

When a baby is intensely crying for no apparent reason, it’s natural for a new breastfeeding mom to question if what she’s eating is affecting her child.

Sometimes that is exactly the case! Within less than an hour, tiny molecules of the food you eat start drifting into your milk. And, if your baby is sensitive or allergic to those foods, crying may ensue. For this reason, moms are often advised to cut out common allergens in their diet (like milk and soy) or in more extreme cases go on an elimination diet. When it works, improvement is typically seen within 3-5 days.

Food that are tough to digest and typically produce gas in adults are the first foods to avoid. Some examples are:

EXCESS FRUCTOSE FRUCTANS LACTOSE GOS POLYOLS
Apples Custard Custard Chickpeas Apples
Boysenberry Apples Condensed milk Legume beans (e.g. baked beans, kidney beans, borlotti beans) Apricots
Figs Nectarines Dairy desserts Lentils Blackberries
Mango White peaches Evaporated milk Pistachio nuts Longon
Pear Persimmon Ice cream Cashews Lychee
Tamarillo Tamarillo Milk Nashi pears
Watermelon Watermelon Milk powder Nectarines
Asparagus Artichoke Unripened cheeses (e.g. ricotta, cottage, cream, mascarpone) Peaches
Artichokes Chicory Yoghurt Pears
Sugar Garlic (and powder) Plums
Snap peas Leek Cauliflower
Fruit juices Onion (and powder) Mushrooms
Dried fruit Spring onion (white part) Snow peas
High-fructose corn syrup Barley Isomalt
Honey Rye Maltitol
Wheat Mannitol
Sorbitol
Xylitol

Studies on Colic and a Breastfeeding Mother's Diet

A study published by Pediatrics in 2005 followed 90 breastfeeding mothers whose infants were shown to be experiencing colic. Half the group was asked to eliminate allergenic foods from their diet for a week resulting in 74% of the infants experiencing at least a 25% reduction in crying and fussing.

The bottom line is that – if nothing else is helping – by eliminating common allergens from her diet, a nursing mom can sometimes lessen her baby’s colic.