Colic: What helps and what doesn't
March 28th, 2011
10:16 AM ET

Colic: What helps and what doesn't

As the parent of any newborn will tell you, there are few things worse than a baby with colic.  While she cries inconsolably, Mom and Dad try everything to soothe their little bundle of joy, often frantically searching the internet or calling friends and grandparents asking for advice.  Now a new study may offer some insight regarding what works and what's a waste of time.

According to the Mayo Clinic, colic is defined as crying more than three hours a day, three days a week for more than three weeks in an otherwise well-fed, healthy baby.  About 25 percent of babies get it.  Researchers aren't sure why.  It may have something to do with allergies, lactose intolerance, an immature digestive system or even maternal anxiety.  Infants of mothers who smoke during or after pregnancy are more likely to develop colic.

The study, which appears in the April 2011 issue of Pediatrics looked at randomized clinical trials of nutritional supplements and other complementary and alternative treatments for colic.  Researchers found "some encouraging results"  when parents used fennel extract, herbal teas, such as chamomile, licorice, fennel and balm mint and sugar-water to treat babies with colic.  Researchers also looked at probiotic supplements, massage and reflexology.  However, the study authors found those therapies did not "significantly" reduce the symptoms of colic.  They also stress that further research is needed.

If you are one of those blurry-eyed parents desperate for relief, take comfort. Colic usually improves on its own within three months.  Experts say you should contact your pediatrician if you notice changes in eating, sleeping or behavior.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.