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It has long been proven that breastfeeding is the healthiest food option for your baby and it should last as long as the baby wants it. You should never switch to formula because of the colicky pain only.

Bad Breastfeeding Technique And Colicky Pain

According to experts including Mary Renfrew, a professor of midwifery studies and director of the mother and infant research unit at the University of Leeds, bad breastfeeding technique may lead to colicky pain in infants. [12]

This is because the consistency of the milk changes during a feeding. At the beginning, the milk is lower in fat and has more milk sugar (lactose). This is called foremilk. If a mother offers the second breast too soon, a baby may get a low amount of the “fatty milk” called hindmilk, which is more satisfying and richer in calories. Ingesting too much foremilk means that the baby will feel full sooner, but for a shorter time frame because it’s watery and low in calories. 

Lactose is a sugar found in all mammalian milk and dairy products. It can even be found in cereals, frozen foods, salad dressings, and breads, among other things.  When ingested, lactose is broken down by the small intestine into two simple sugars — glucose and galactose— by an enzyme called lactase. Large amounts of lactose in the intestine cause stomach troubles including colic, gas, and explosive bowel movements.

Never switch to formula with a plan to relieve colicky pain because breastfeeding — when conducted correctly — only aids the baby’s health.

Lactose Intolerance And Breastfeeding

Some babies are born with a deficiency of the lactase enzyme and are unable to absorb the milk sugar properly. Such babies show symptoms of malabsorption, fail to thrive from the beginning, and need special care as soon as possible. [3]  

Most babies are ready to drink and digest milk as that’s our natural first food. The exception are babies with genetically carried intolerance, and premature born infants because their bodies are not ready to produce lactase, but preemies eventually adapt to breast milk. [4]

Bear in mind that lactose intolerance is not the same thing as milk protein allergy or sensitivity. They may have similar symptoms, but lactose intolerance is a digestive problem, while milk protein allergies involve weak immune systems. [5]

Studies have found that lactose intolerance may be the cause of colic, but it’s still not a reason to switch to formula. In such cases, pretreatment of feeds with lactase may result in considerable benefits. [6] Lactose is important for a baby’s development because it provides about 40 percent of the energy and helps the baby absorb iron and calcium. [7]

There’s no need to change your diet if your baby’s colic is caused by lactose intolerance because neither is caused by nor made worse by a mother’s diet. Try spacing feeds a little so the baby can digest the milk before offering another round. If the baby requires frequent feedings, offer the same breast as the last time because the milk will be fattier and easier to digest. [8]

Allergies To Proteins Found In Milk

Besides colic, food sensitivity in babies may cause nervousness and pain. People tend to confuse milk protein allergy with lactose intolerance. Infants often have intolerances to milk protein just because their digestive system is still immature. Besides colic, a baby allergic to cow’s milk protein shows symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea.

In comparison to cow's milk formula‐fed babies, exclusive breastfeeding during the first four to six months of baby’s life reduces the risk of cow’s milk protein allergies during early infancy. A small percentage of infants is allergic to proteins from food — two to eight percent of babies are allergic to cow’s milk, and only 0.5 percent of exclusively breast fed babies are allergic to this protein. [9]

Don’t wait too long to introduce potentially allergenic foods to your child. Studies have found that late introduction of potential allergens may increase the risk of developing a life-threatening food allergy. [10] Foods that account for 90 percent of all allergic reactions include milk, peanuts, eggs, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. And they yet replace a mother’s milk with soy formula. Not funny, right?!

Should I Switch To Formula To Treat Colic?

The answer is — no, don’t do it just because your baby has colic. You can try adjusting your diet by eliminating potential trigger foods at least for a week.

These include:

  • dairy products
  • too much caffeine
  • cigarettes
  • cruciferous vegetables
  • citrus fruits
  • chocolate
  • spicy foods
  • grains
  • nuts
Be careful and don’t eliminate too many things from your diet at once. You won’t do any good to your baby if you’re deprived of nutrients. Try with eliminating cow’s milk first. If there’s no change in the intensity and duration of your baby’s colicky symptoms, reintroduce the dairy. Several studies have suggested that elimination of certain foods from a mother’s diet won’t help with colicky pain [11], but it’s best if you try it for yourself.

Another important thing to mention is that you should never time feedings. Let the baby breastfeed for as long as they want and need to. Studies have found that breastfeeding problems and colicky pain are least common in developing countries, where people don’t care about time that much. [2] [12]

Keep Breastfeeding!

A lot of babies have colicky pain in the first three months of their lives, and I know it may be frustrating, but it’s completely normal. [13] Marketing did a great job once again at making parents, especially mothers, believe that expensive and hypoallergenic formulas will make their children colic-free. It probably can help a little in cases when the baby is allergic to the milk protein, but in all other cases breast milk is a far healthier and better option.

It’s not just about the milk; breastfeeding also means closeness and tenderness. The warmth of your body may calm a fussy and colicky baby. There’s no doubt, formula is great in cases when the woman can’t breastfeed her baby, but it’s not the solution for colicky pain in breastfed infants. Thanks to the more regular bottle flow, colicky pain may actually improve in some babies when they’re switched to formula, but the symptoms would also improve by drinking breast milk form the bottle. [2]

Colic passes relatively quickly. In most cases it starts decreasing when the baby is six weeks old, and is mostly gone by the fourth month of a baby’s life. Be gentle and loving to your baby. Feed them well, preferably with your own milk. Colic will go away, and the guilt for giving up breastfeeding too soon may hunt you for a lifetime.

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