How to help ease digestive problems in infants holistically.
First published by OKinHealth March 2013
Parents, especially new parents, seem to spend a lot of time thinking about their child’s digestion. It’s not pretty dinner conversation; but listen to any group of new parents talk and within an hour the conversation inevitably turns to poop. My older kids are almost eleven, so I had forgotten how much poop-talk you go through with a new baby. In the efforts of helping some of the stressed out parents I have met recently, I thought I would put some colic-causers and diaper-dealings down in print for easy reference!
For infants, the difference between a good day and a very bad day can come down to how well the intestines are working; whether or not the baby can expel gas that might be causing cramps and how easily the smooth muscles are able to move things along through the colon. A lot of the symptoms that get written off as ‘colic’ really come down to problems with digestion. Sometimes something as simple as testing for food sensitivities can save parents and Baby many sleepless agonizing nights.
Specialized Kinesiology can be helpful in determining which foods are causing issues for a little one, but if you aren’t interested in doing this kind of testing, you can use a standard elimination diet to see for yourself what foods might be causing an infant stress. Dairy products are the culprit more often than not, so start by eliminating them from a nursing mother’s diet completely (no cheating!) for three weeks. Take note of how the baby’s digestion is working, then have a little dairy and see if you notice any change. Other common trigger foods are wheat, eggs and soy and you can move through this list systematically to see which foods make a difference.
Herbal infusions can be wonderful helpers too. Fennel seed tea is great for digestion and bloating and will help a baby expel gas while relieving cramping. Even Dr. Oz has chimed in on this traditional remedy, suggesting that people who are embarrassed by flatulence should keep some seeds with them to chew after a big meal. To brew a therapeutic infusion, use one teaspoon of the seeds. Using the back of the spoon to gently press down on them, crushing them slightly – this will help the oils release into the water more easily. Let steep for 10 minutes. Rooibos tea is used traditionally in African countries to aid digestion in infants as it is anti-spasmodic and settling to the stomach. Plus it tastes good. When a baby is old enough to be drinking water from a sippy cup, you can prepare weak rooibos tea for them to drink. It’s naturally sweet and full of minerals.
Last but certainly not least, try massage. Yep, babies love being rubbed down just as much as their parents do. For massage to help with digestion you need to be moving in the right direction. On the abdomen, move up the baby’s right side from the hip to just above the belly button level, move across the belly, then down on baby’s left. This is tracing the path of the large intestine. You can use any lotion to do this, but I like to use Rescue Remedy Cream for its stress-busting, calming and cleansing properties; it tends to relax everyone right away which is half the battle, really. If you want to get really fancy you can add a drop of Roman Chamomile essential oil to the cream as you go. It’s expensive, but it’s also a sedative and as far as I’m concerned you can’t put a price on the joy of a soundly sleeping baby!
So the next time your play-date chat turns to comparisons of tummy troubles, put the kettle on, avoid the dairy-laden goodies and pull your little darling in close for some massage time. And they all lived happily ever after.
Natural Health Practitioner Alexis Costello is proud mommy to ten-year-old twins and a brand new baby. She wants to help other holistic mamas and kids to be their best in this wild world.
Kid’s health/ family/ nutrition/ fennel seeds/ herbs for babies/ rooibos tea