Complementary and Alternative Care for Infantile Colic

Complementary and Alternative Care for Infantile Colic

About one in five babies develop infantile colic; often it's the firstborn male. Babies who have colic seem to always cry at about the same time each day (three or more days a week), usually between two weeks and six months of age. These crying episodes are characterized by unexplained prolonged periods of crying (usually three hours or longer) and tightly fisted hands or excessively kicking feet; babies who have colic usually have hard tummies and frequent gas, and often spit up after feeding.

Most doctors believe that infantile colic can result from a number of things, including a baby's immature nervous or digestive system; an over- or under-stimulated baby; certain ingredients in the diet of the breastfeeding mother; and certain antibiotics given at birth to either the baby or the mother.

If you suspect that your baby is suffering from infantile colic, see your pediatrician to rule out other possible ailments and to receive your doctor's recommendations for caring for yourself and your child if colic is diagnosed. The following nutritional guidelines and herbal remedies can help to alleviate or eliminate symptoms of colic. Be sure to talk with your physician to best determine which herbal or nutritional supplements are for you. Some supplements should not be taken if you have certain medical conditions or are taking particular prescription medications.


  • If you are breastfeeding, eliminate dairy products, caffeine, and gas-producing foods such as citrus fruits, soy products, and spicy foods from your diet.
  • If you are bottle-feeding, use a formula that is not based on cow's milk. Also consider trying a hypoallergenic formula.
  • Do not offer solid foods to your baby prior to six months of age.
  • Consider acidophilus (especially Bifidus spp.) supplements to improve stomach and intestinal function. Dose is 1 capsule with meals three times per day for a breastfeeding mother; for infants, 1 capsule per day (break capsule open and administer powder in divided doses throughout the day).

Herbal remedies

Herbs are generally available as dried extracts (pills, capsules, or tablets), teas, or tinctures. Teas should be made with 1 teaspoon herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Tinctures are preparations made from alcohol (or water and alcohol), containing an herb strength of 1 part herb to 5 parts solvent or 1 part herb to 10 parts solvent.

  • A tea made from fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare) or anise seed (Pimpinella anisum) may be given directly to your infant (1 teaspoon before and after feedings) or drunk by you if you are breastfeeding (1 cup three to six times per day). Both fennel and anise relax the gastrointestinal tract and help expel gas.
  • Other herbs that have relaxing effects and may help to reduce colic include lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), catnip (Nepeta cateria), peppermint (Mentha piperita), spearmint (Mentha spicata), and linden flower (Tilia cordata). Any of these may be added to the above tea.
  • Clockwise abdominal herbal massage may help to relieve spasms and expel gas. Use 3 to 5 drops of a catnip tincture in 1 to 2 teaspoons of almond or olive oil.
  • Add 3 to 4 drops of essential oil of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) or lemon balm to a warm bath to help relax and soothe a colicky infant.

A colicky infant can cause parents a considerable amount of stress. If you are feeling overwhelmed, be sure to talk to your doctor, join a support group, or ask others for help.


Integrative Medicine Access: Professional Reference to Conditions, Herbs & Supplements. Newton, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

Review Date: October 2000
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

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