Whether they are breastfed or on formula, many babies have fussy periods during the first weeks of life. A colicky baby seems to suffer from intense pain, showing it by tensing his whole body, with knees pulled against his stomach, fists clenched and high-pitched wails that express agony. Colic usually occurs in the late afternoon or evening and may last for hours. The cause of this distress is usually unknown. Most breastfeeding mothers can eat anything without risking effects in their baby. Sometimes, however, a trial-and-error approach helps to eliminate offending foods.
Cow's milk may be the most common food sensitivity in breastfed babies, perhaps because women are encouraged to drink a lot of milk during pregnancy and lactation, which may result in prenatal sensitization. Cow's milk proteins in mother's milk may cause fussiness in sensitive infants. Nancy Mohrbacher and Julie Stock, co-authors of La Leche League International's "The Breastfeeding Answer Book," state that it may take from ten days to two weeks to completely eliminate cow's milk proteins from the mother's body after she stops consuming dairy products. Calcium-rich alternatives to cow's milk include green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, fortified orange juice and tofu, almonds, sardines and salmon.
After cow's milk, other foods to consider are eggs, wheat, corn, soy, peanuts, fish, shellfish, nuts, citrus fruits, tomatoes and spices. For most babies these foods do not cause problems, but allergic babies may have reactions. Foods the mother craves and eats a lot of are good suspects. Eliminating all possible allergens and then slowly adding them back into the diet can be a difficult and time-consuming task. One alternative is to eliminate a few foods and take pancreatic digestive enzyme supplements with meals. The enzymes break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates more thoroughly than normal digestion, making it less likely that troublesome substances will pass through breast milk. A study of 16 breastfeeding mothers with troubled babies had the women eliminate dairy, soy, nuts, strawberries and chocolate while taking enzymes with meals and snacks. Researchers B. Schach and M. Haight conducted the study at the University of California Davis Medical Center's Department of Pediatrics. The method worked to resolve colic symptoms in 13 of the infants. The findings were published in the February 2002 "Journal of Human Lactation." It is possible that eating slowly and chewing each bite a long time could have similar benefits.
A large maternal intake of caffeine may cause breastfed infants to be wakeful, irritable and fussy. Besides coffee, caffeine is found in chocolate, tea, cola, other sodas, energy drinks and some over-the-counter medications. KidsHealth suggests limiting caffeine to one or two cups of coffee per day while breastfeeding and reminds mothers that the more caffeine they consume, the more it will interfere with the baby's moods and sleep patterns.
- "The Breastfeeding Answer Book," Nancy Mohrbacher and Julie Stock, La Leche League International, 2003
- "Journal of Human Lactation," Colic and food allergy in the breastfed infant: is it possible for an exclusively breastfed infant to suffer from food allergy?, Schach B., Haight M., February 2001, 18(1)
- KidsHealth: Breastfeeding FAQs