“My Baby Has Colic. Could it be Due To a Food Allergy or Intolerance?” by Chantal Jura

Many mothers experience fussiness in their babies once in a while, and it is usually accepted as part of the trials of motherhood. Yet, some babies have “colic,” which is described as a healthy baby who is gaining weight steadily but crying inconsolably for over 3 hours, for an incidence that happens more than 3 days a week, for over 3 weeks.


The crying starts usually at around the same time every day, often in the evenings. It doesn’t matter whether you bottle feed or breast feed your baby roughly one in every five babies experience colic starting at around 2 weeks and ending at around 4 months. It can usually be identified by baby pulling up his legs up while crying, his hands may be in a fist, he is letting go of a lot of gas and his stomach is harder than normal. The worst part about colic is that there is no proven treatment.

Although no one really knows what causes true “colic,” saying that it will just go away on its own can be hard to accept and to deal with in those first few months. Most parents want, and need, a solution. While studies shows that some babies might indeed have an allergic reaction to certain food proteins that resist digestion in the small intestine and will find its way into breast milk (usually typical allergens such as dairy, nuts, soy or gluten).

Here are some things to consider as other possible causes:

• Your baby may not be properly latched on. A good latch is the key to successful breastfeeding! A proper latch is when the baby’s chin is pressed against mom’s breast and her nose is well away from the breast. Baby sucks the areola, not just the nipple. We like to call the shape baby’s lips make a “fish’s tail,” as baby’s lower lip should be turned outward. Baby should also not be making loud sucking noises when she feeds.

Contact a lactation consultant, your mid-wife or doctor if you have any concerns or issues with your baby latching on.

• Your baby 's digestive system is still immature, which means they will have uncomfortable gas from time to time.

• Your baby received too much milk too quickly. A mother can have an overactive letdown reflex where the milk comes down very forcefully making it hard for the baby to swallow. The baby might even gag or swallow a lot of air along with the milk. See previous chapters for suggestions on positioning with over active reflex.

• Your baby swallowed too much air because he was crying, he drank out of a bottle, or he was not well positioned during the feeding.

• Your baby did not burp well between breasts or after feeds.

• A foremilk/hindmilk imbalance (More lactose vs. high-fat milk). This can be caused by several factors, such as an improper latch, an overactive letdown reflex, timed feedings, or not allowing baby to finish one breast at a time.

• Thrush can cause gas and discomfort.

• Baby has not had a bowel movement for a few days.

• If baby is also formula-fed, you might need to change formula.

• Your baby might be reacting to vitamins, medications, juices or herbal teas.

A Word Of Caution If you suspect that your baby is sensitive to something you've eaten , you'll find other symptoms apart from colic. These symptoms might be (but are not limited to): bloody filaments in their stool, excessive regurgitation, eczema or a constantly runny nose.


The Most Common Food Allergies & Intolerances

All foods have the potential to cause an allergic reaction. What may bother one baby won’t necessarily bother another. However, there are some foods that are more likely to cause a reaction than others:

  • Dairy & Cow’s Milk Proteins
  • Egg
  • Peanut
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Corn
  • Citrus
  • Shell fish
  • Food additives

To reduce the risk of developing food allergies and intolerances, the World Health Organization highly recommends exclusively breastfeeding your baby for their first six months of life.

If you suspect that your baby is reacting every time you eat a particular food, keep a food diary and write down everything you have eaten every day, and at what time. Also note down the symptoms and reactions in your baby. Be precise and detailed as much as you can in your journal and be aware that some reactions can take up to 72 hours to appear.

It’s important to eliminate the suspected food for a period of a minimum two to three weeks to allow your system proper elimination time. Eliminating less than the recommended minimum time will prove ineffective. Cow’s milk protein, for example, can remain in the mother’s system for almost two weeks after last consumption. While on an elimination diet, it is important for the mom to continue taking her daily vitamins, including adding a calcium supplementation (1,200 mg a day divided into several doses) to make sure she will not start a deficiency. Continuing to take probiotics will also help keep the good bacteria in mom’s gut.
If you suspect more than one food to be the main cause of intolerance, start by eliminating one food or food group at a time, every 2-3 weeks.

If you notice your baby’s symptoms start to disappear or to decrease in severity, you may have found the culprit. Some infants improve within 5-7 days, but others may take much longer before symptoms disappear. Do not be discouraged.

A Word Of Caution When eliminating a food, the breastfeeding mother needs to remember to eliminate any other related foods that contain this product. For example, when eliminating cow’s milk proteins, eliminate anything made with cow’s milk: whey, lactoglubin, and casein as well. Reading and understanding ingredient lists and nutrition labels are very important. Consult a nutritionist if you are unsure.

A good way to confirm a suspected food intolerance is to very slowly reintroduce the food back into the mother’s diet, one at a time.

1 Vandenplas Y, Koletzko S, Isolauri E, et al. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of cow’s milk protein allergy in infants. Arch Dis Child 2007;92:902–908.

- If the baby’s reaction is severe, you should eliminate again from the mother’s diet and wait a few months before introducing it into the baby’s diet (if the baby is older than 6 months).
- If the baby reacts very severely (anaphylactic shock for example) it could be an allergic reaction and not a food intolerance. The food should never be reintroduced into the child’s diet.

- If the baby has no reaction, it is likely that your child is no longer intolerant. Suspected food allergies should always be evaluated and diagnosed by a qualified medical professional. Do not diagnose a food allergy on your own - this can lead to unnecessary dietary restrictions and inadequate nutrition in children.

The most common tests performed to determine true food allergies are RAST blood tests and skin scratch tests. These tests alone do not always provide a clear answer, and it is possible to have a false-negative or a false positive. Also, these tests do not provide an answer to food intolerances at all.

February, 2015

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