Ask TAPN: What foods should I avoid when breastfeeding a colicky baby?

We have a question for the dietitian. What are foods to avoid when breastfeeding a colicky baby? We know to avoid onions, garlic, gas creating foods. Some go as far as suggesting to cut out all dairy products. I have now created about 4 “good colicky food” recipes with pumpkin, green and yellow squashes, butternut etc. The conflicting advice I have had from a friend whose paediatrician suggested is to eat cultured milk, a paediatrician friend of mine backed this up. I can’t wait to stuff my face with lacto, but I thought I would ask the dietitian.

My Burnt Orange

Our Response

The issue of  maternal diet and colic remains a controversy amongst healthcare professionals. Spicy foods, cruciferous vegetables(broccoli, cabbage cauliflower etc.), caffeine, strawberries, nuts and chocolate are often listed as culprits but the research supporting these foods as the cause of colic is scarce. Research however, suggests that cow’s milk may contribute to colicky behavior.  For this reason, mother’s of infants exhibiting symptoms are advised to avoid all dairy products for 7-10 days and assess the behavior of their child after this period of time. If there is no improvement, the parent can safely assume that their child is not reacting to milk and continue eliminating other foods until the offending food is found.

So, if studies suggest that cow’s milk may be the cause of discomfort, why would a pediatrician recommend cultured milk?  The immaturity of an infant’s gut has often been cited as a culprit for the development of colic. Cultured milk (lacto) and other cultured products (maheu, yogurt, fermented porridge), contain good bacteria (probiotics) which help stabilize this immature gut.   Initial studies have been promising with mothers that took probiotic foods and supplements reporting markedly less crying episodes in their infants. However, this remedy is effective if your baby is not reacting to milk proteins passed through breast milk. Therefore, if you intend to try this remedy, I would recommend that you begin by eliminating all dairy products for 7-10 days to see if it is the cause of baby’s crying. If there is no improvement in the colic episodes during this week, then it go ahead and introduce fermented milk products.  You could also consume fermented foods (yogurt with live cultures, maheu, fermented porridge) or take a probiotic supplement.

In most cases of colic however, mother’s diet is not the cause.  Rather, the overall composition of the milk that baby takes in may be of concern.  In order to ensure that baby gets a full “serving” of food at each breastfeeding session, allow baby to drink completely from one breast before offering the other one. This ensures that baby gets enough of the hind milk which contains fat and helps baby stay full longer. If baby is offered another breast before emptying the first, (s)he may consume more milk than usual. However, the milk consumed will be low in fat and empty out of the stomach quickly.  This will allow a large amount of lactose (milk sugar) to arrive in the intestine at the same time. Baby’s body may not be able to digest all the sugar at once causing baby to suffer from gas, explosive diarrhea, crying etc.  To ensure that baby gets hind milk at each feeding, closely monitor him/her at feeding times. Watch for signs of breast emptiness exhibited through nibbling of the breast, self-detaching, sleeping etc. After this point, offer baby the other breast. At the next feeding, begin with the breast that was offered last during the previous feeding session.

So, after all this rambling, the short answer to your question is for you to omit dairy for 7-10 days and if baby continues with colicky episodes begin  foods with high probiotic activity. Thess  include LACTO  (🙂 ), yogurt with live cultures, maheu, fermented porridge etc.

Hope this helps and hope baby’s colic resolves soon. Mummy has to get her rest too!

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Categories: Ask TAPN, Uncategorized

Author:Cordialis Chipo

Cordialis is a Registered Dietitian (R.D) and a pioneer in the discussion of modern day healthy lifestyles in Africa. She is the founder of The African Pot Nutrition - a nutrition consultancy that improves the health of African people through sustainable diet and lifestyle programs. Follow her on twitter @africadietitian or on Facebook (The African Pot Nutrition.

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