When babies cry endlessly and spit up, doctors and parents used to call it colic. In past decades there wasn’t much to be done about it except wait for the infant to grow out of it. Nowadays, however, many babies are prescribed power acid-suppressing drugs called proton pump inhibitors or PPIs for short.
A commentary in the Journal of Pediatrics calls routine prescribing of PPIs to infants into question. For one thing, acid reflux is actually uncommon in babies. For another, PPIs are not very effective for these symptoms in children under one year of age. Routine use of PPIs in babies may put them at risk for lung infections or gastroenteritis. They may also contribute to nutritional deficits, especially vitamin B12, calcium and magnesium. Instead of PPIs, pediatricians are urged to try non-drug approaches to help parents handle old-fashioned colic.
[Journal of Pediatrics, Oct. 29, 2011]

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  1. betty

    Couple questions: First what were the stools like? Is there a clue there that it might be dairy digestion?
    Second, what happens to the child if never is dairy diagnosed as the problem? Do they grow up??

  2. Brian

    The culprit was dairy!
    We had happy nursing baby boy, and around his 3rd week, he became a colic-y nightmare. We would stay up all hours rocking, and swinging, and soothing, and trying to comfort him. He was obviously in serious tummy distress – writhing and crying. He looked like he wanted to be asleep as much as we did, just something was hurting him.
    We tried just about everything for weeks and weeks and it didn’t get better. We read/heard that a nursing mom’s dairy intake could cause tummy distress. I wanted to give it a try, but this was a hard sell to my wife. She loves dairy! All forms, milk, cheese, you name it. She tried for about 2 days, and proudly announced that since there was no change in our precious ones tummy, it wasn’t dairy that was causing the trouble.
    I pleaded that she give it at least two weeks and she finally agreed. Hallelujah! The colic quietly went away. We’ve since had 3 more babies, and with each one, she ‘tested’ to see if the dairy bothered them or was a fluke, and each one got colic, and when she stopped the dairy, the colic just went away.

  3. Tasha

    I agree, there are so many other options out there, prescriptions should be avoided, especially for the little ones, unless absolutely necessary. I realize that research has come a long ways, and I’m extremely thankful for it, but sometimes I think we over-medicate our children. I used to massage my daughters tummy everyday, and I really think it helped. I also heavily relied on my baby swings.

  4. Carla

    I am a mom who had a son with severe colic. I can’t tell you how frustrating it was for us! Nonetheless, our ped suggested allergy testing since my husband and myself both suffered from allergies. What a shock it was to take this 4 month old baby for testing and find out he was VERY allergic to milk and soy! I was nursing but I was eating dairy like crazy… no wonder the kid felt so awful! After I reduced my dairy consumption, he was so much better!

  5. mcm

    16 yrs ago, my daughter had colic from the time she was 3 weeks old until 3 months (almost to the day)- the arched back, screaming and vomiting started at 5pm until the 11pm feeding after which she’d finally sleep… NOTHING worked that we tried… I don’t know who was more distressed- her in her discomfort, or me, the new (exhausted) mom who felt I should be able to relieve it and felt guilty that I’d eaten something (what?) to cause it… and NO help/suggestions from the expensive pediatrician we were seeing…
    By 8pm I’d have to leave her w/Dad and get out of the house, for my own sanity… When it stopped at 3 months, I felt I could finally enjoy her. I truly feel for other parents in this situation (some of which may have NO outside support), and hope they can cope, knowing it WILL eventually pass. I do think some real strategies for parents should have been offered in the article, because it can be a TOUGH situation at a vulnerable time for both baby AND parent.

  6. Paul Blake, ND

    One simple remedy for the majority of colic suffering babies and one of the most common causes has been known for years. This particular cause is the intestinal flora in the babies gut is out of balance causing poor digestion and gas pain. The remedy is simple probiotics (see study below) that you can find at any health food store, I have seen it work almost immediately. Buy only refrigerated probiotics for freshness as they tend to be of the better quality.
    Poor Intestinal Flora Symptoms: irritability, bloating, abdominal pain, foul smelling bowel movements, constipation/diarrhea, food sensitivities, rectal itching, spitting-up, poor immunity
    Colic Symptoms: crying suddenly after a feeding, crying is loud and continuous for one to four hours, baby’s face often is flushed or red, hands clenched, belly is distended or prominent, the feet are often cold, baby may arch their backs, draw up their legs to their tummy, extend their legs rigidly, pass wind.
    A 2010 scientific study published in the Journal of Pediatrics reports the effectiveness of a probiotic treatment for colic. The authors report states that the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri significantly reduced crying time among infants with colic, compared to placebo. The subjects included 50 exclusively breast-fed infants, that were administered either L. reuteri or a placebo.
    Savino F, Cordisco L, Tarasco V, et al. Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 in infantile colic: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Pediatrics. 2010;126(3):e526-e533.
    Doc Blake

  7. MCW

    I am a nurse who sees lots of new moms and babies. I also had my own child with colic so I know how frustrating it can be. I have been concerned about so many babies being put on medicine . I always recommend baby massage classes which teach moms how to massage their babies tummies to lessen gas pain and constipation.


    I agree with MHO that dairy needs to be eliminated from mother’s diet. Keeping baby upright after feeding for about 20 minutes helps eliminate spitting up.
    While a bit of reflux is normal in a newborn (the valve between the esophagus and stomach doesn’t close well at birth), projectile vomiting is not. With most babies, a bit of spitting up is more of a laundry problem than a medical one. Gripe water can be helpful and is commercially available. Nursing baby frequently, especially in the evenings as well as keeping baby upright after feeding can be especially helpful.

  9. Mark

    I had very bad colic when I was an infant. It turned out, I have IBS with the milk allergy that usually accompanies it. The doctors would say give him more milk and I would then go through more agony. I find it mind boggling that after 48 years doctors still haven’t a clue. To make things worse they are prescribing a medication that will make things far worse. Another example of what happens when we don’t instruct of children to use their minds as a tool and not as a tape recorder. These children are now so called Doctors and we get what we have sown.

  10. cpmt

    I don’t know if this will work for every baby but in Europe mothers give to colic babies anise tea (made with anise seeds), they also sell it in pharmacies in small bottles.

  11. RC1956

    25 years ago, my oldest daughter had colic for 2 hours a day. The doctor did prescribe donnatol which had limited effect on her problems. She was also extremely constipated daily requiring glycerine suppositories to go at all. We used malt supex in each bottle (about 1/8th tsp) which worked better than dark corn syrup, although more expensive). It was very helpful as well as changing her to soy formula.
    With all these modalities, the best thing was my father. He would ballroom dance with her for hours to Zamphyr, the guy playing the pan flute. Also a baby swing with a crib that played music and had a timer was very helpful.
    Hope this helps you.

  12. MHO

    If the mother is nursing she should stop drinking and eating all dairy products for the first three months of the baby’s life. That usually clears up the gas associated with colic.

  13. Eleanor K.

    My grandson was treated with PPI’s. I wondered about it but it seemed to work. He’s now 7 and ok so I guess it did no permanent harm.

  14. mw

    Would have been nice to publish options.

  15. Betty F.

    I had ‘colic’ until I was three months old, day and night, my parents said. Then Grandma came to visit and she said “the baby is hungry’ and she fixed up a bottle of milk and to feed me in addition to nursing. And I did not have ‘colic’ any more.

  16. Dawn

    I’m in Radiology and have seen a huge increase in studies for babies who “spit up” or have colic. Almost ALL parents are given the option of PPIs after they utter the words “spitting up.” The difference between “spitting up” and “projectile vomiting” are great. Our parents and grandparents had it right.

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