New England School of Homeopathy

Natural Remedies for Colic

by Dr. Amy Rothenberg for Homeopathy Today, March 2004

There is nothing more miraculous than bringing a baby into the world. To have the opportunity to raise a child and create a family is one of the greatest blessings there is in life. Children may come to us one after another in rapid succession, or after years of planning, or perhaps as late-life surprises—by giving birth or through adoption. In any event, sometimes things go smoothly those first few months and sometimes things are a little rockier.

Where are the instructions?!
When a colicky baby is uncomfortable or even clearly in pain, the whole experience can be overwhelming, especially for first-time parents who may feel powerless, insecure, and frustrated. Parents may wish that their baby came with operating instructions, which unfortunately, he or she does not! Homeopathy can help with colic and in turn can let families get back to the lofty business of loving and caring for their baby, which, even with the most easygoing child, can be exhausting.

Colic is defined in the Merck Manual as “a symptom complex of early infancy characterized by paroxysms of crying, apparent abdominal pain, and irritability.” I have also seen colic described in medical texts as “paroxysmal fussing of infancy,” which perhaps better describes the problem. Colic begins sometime in the first few months and, for most babies, does not last beyond the fourth month or so. Most infants with colic continue to gain weight well and may seem extremely hungry. The constant or intermittent crying can lead the baby to swallow a lot of air, which exacerbates matters with regard to gas and abdominal bloating.

By the time a family appears at my office for the treatment of colic, they are generally in a desperate state—worn out, sleep-deprived, overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy, and at their wit’s end. I do remind parents that colic will not last; but hopefully we can find a remedy to help bring their baby back in balance quickly, so he or she can focus on the work of eating, sleeping, and growing in a calmer, more peaceful way.

Understanding the colic and the baby
It is important to remember that just about any homeopathic remedy can be prescribed for a baby suffering from colic—as long as the baby’s symptoms match the remedy’s indications. I always take a complete case no matter what the complaint. I try to understand everything there is to know about the colic—that is, when the pain is worse, what seems to make the baby feel better or worse, and what the baby’s bowel habits are. I also like to have general information about the mother’s pregnancy, the birth, and delivery. I will ask about the baby’s skin, urination, temperature preferences, sleep position, and habits. I then try to see how these physical elements fall into the child’s overall temperament and mood; that is, I prescribe for the whole child with a special eye to the digestive discomfort.

Homeopathic remedies for colic
Here are the remedies I prescribe most often for babies with colic:

Chamomilla. This popular remedy has introduced many a parent to homeopathy and its benefits. It is used when the baby cries often and cannot be comforted. They are restless, seem angry, and may arch their back in an effort to find a comfortable position. The stools are often green and offensive, even in the breastfed baby.
Pulsatilla. This baby develops hiccoughs soon after eating and you can hear rumbling from the belly. This is the infant that, although not comfortable, is consolable and feels best when in mother’s arms, being held or gently rocked. You will commonly be able to see a fine marbled look to the skin, with visible small veins on the face. Pulsatilla little ones, in general, are thirstless, but do not be misled by the baby who wants to nurse or have the bottle for hours on end: it is the comfort associated with feeding that they crave.
Nux vomica. A baby that needs this remedy will most often be constipated. They will need to push very hard for each bowel movement, even if the stool is soft or mushy. They will want to be kept very warm, and they will be angry with most of what one does in trying to help them. They may also have a stuffy nose.
Lycopodium. These babies have a look of anxiety about them, with a wrinkled brow and a worried expression. They suffer from trapped gas and seem to worsen in the late afternoon or early evening just as everyone in the family seems to be getting irritable. They can be helped with a warm compress or warm hot-water bottle held to the belly and will always feel better if they can pass gas. They may also have cracks behind the ears, and a bit of eczema cropping up.
Colocynthis. I will prescribe this remedy when the main modality is that the baby is better with firm pressure to the abdomen—when the parents report that they must hoist the baby up and over their shoulder and give that sort of pressure to relieve the pain and crying.
Magnesium phosphoricum. This baby’s colic is helped if they can keep their knees up by the chest, which seems to relieve the bloating and gas; they will also settle down some if they can manage a good burp.
Ignatia. I do think about this remedy for a baby with troubling colic, especially if the mother has experienced a grief, such as a loss of another baby in the past or loss of her own mother or husband during pregnancy. These emotional events in the mother’s life may influence the baby at hand.
Dosage. I most often give a remedy in a 30C potency, one time, and ask the parent to report back to me in a week. I will make follow-up prescriptions based on how the baby has responded.

More advice for colic
I also make some of the following naturopathic recommendations when babies are experiencing colic:

I ask the mom to try drinking some nonalcoholic beer a half-hour or so before nursing: it may help her to relax due, perhaps, to the hops in it. This can help to break the cycle of a crying baby which leads to a very nervous mother which in turn leads to a nervous, crying baby.

Sometimes the baby will do better if the nursing mother avoids vegetables in the brassicaceae family (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.), as well as dairy, onions, and garlic. If the mother comes to me having already tried this to no effect, I tell her to resume her normal diet and I go to work looking for the best homeopathic remedy.

Each child is a gift
Having three teenagers myself now, I remember fondly the years of tending to little ones. Having three kids in four years would not be my recommendation to most sane people, but it did afford me the opportunity of “total surrender”! We had our good days and bad—weeks of cabin fever in the dead of New England winters, whole months it seems given over to chicken pox or runny noses. Lots of time making discoveries in our backyard, figuring out how machines work, learning how to communicate effectively and with kindness, exploring the wonders of reading, doing art projects, baking, cooking, cleaning, and playing with friends. Each child is a gift through which we keep on opening, through love and acceptance, laughter and understanding, and ultimately, letting go.

Homeopathy allows us to address the bumps and bruises that surface along the way in the context of raising a family—from the throes of colic to adolescent PMS. I am ever thankful to have the tool of homeopathic medicine—at the office to help the young families in my practice—and in my home to help my own family as well.