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Nutrition for Infants and Children

How to Avoid Colic

There are many theories about the causes of colic, but this distressing condition is generally believed to be an irritation caused by certain foods. About one in five babies suffers from colic during the first months of life. Colicky babies have gas and cry for long periods, usually in the evening—and nothing their concerned parents do seems to help.

But colic can often be avoided. The most important step: A switch from cow’s milk formula to breast-feeding or to a soy–based formula often takes care of the baby’s discomfort.

Sometimes, however, even breastfed babies develop colic. In these cases, the problem is often in the mother’s diet.

Previously, it was believed that animal proteins could not end up in breast milk because they were completely broken down in the digestive tract. But we now know that surprisingly large protein molecules—including dairy proteins—pass from the digestive tract into the blood and can reach the nursing baby.1

A survey of 272 breast-feeding mothers showed that many babies became colicky when their mothers ate certain foods.2

These foods were the most likely to cause problems:

  • cow’s milk
  • onions
  • cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage

If your baby is colicky, simply avoid these foods during the first four months of breast-feeding.

1. Clyne PS, Kulczycki A. Human breast milk contains bovine IgG. Relationship to infant colic? Pediatrics 1991;87:439–444.
2. Lust KD, Brown JE, Thomas W. Maternal intake of cruciferous vegetables and other foods and colic symptoms in exclusively breast–fed infants. J Am Dietetic Asso 1996;96:46–8.