Abdominal cramps in babies | Causes, symptoms and tips

Almost every baby suffers from abdominal cramps. Is your child suddenly inconsolable after feeding or does he / she kick with the legs? Probably these are abdominal cramps. Despite being very annoying, not only for your baby but also for yourself, cramps are quite normal. It is part of the growth of your baby, one suffers from it more than the other. In this blog you can read the possible causes of abdominal cramps, how to recognize them and we give useful tips to reduce cramping in your baby. 

What are abdominal cramps? 

Abdominal cramps – also called colic or colic – are contractions of the muscles in the intestinal wall. This is mainly because the intestines are not used to food and are still developing. Abdominal cramps in babies are most common when they are around 6 weeks old. The cramps often start during or after feeding and are very annoying for your baby, resulting in a lot of crying.

It is of course not nice to see your baby so inconsolable, this can sometimes last for hours (usually in the evening). A baby with abdominal cramps will probably keep you awake for quite a few nights. Fortunately, intestinal cramps in babies are a temporary problem and usually disappear when a baby gets older. 

Causes of abdominal cramps in babies 

The most common causes are diet and stress. First try to address these factors, this in many cases relieves all the abdominal cramps. Other possible causes of cramps in babies: 

Immature digestive system 

Babies do not yet have a mature digestive system and may therefore have difficulty digesting certain foods. This can lead to gas formation and abdominal pain. 

Allergies to certain foods 

Some babies are allergic to certain foods such as lactose (milk products) or soy, causing them to suffer from intestinal cramps.

Reflux 

Some babies suffer from reflux, which can cause intestinal cramps and heartburn. 

Greedy drinking 

Does your baby drink as if his/her life depends on it? Then there is a good chance that a lot of air is swallowed and that the food ends up in the stomach and intestines too quickly. That can cause abdominal cramps. 

Cold 

During a cold, your baby is more likely to swallow air. Just like greedy drinking, this often causes cramps. 

Too much / changing of food 

If your baby actually has too much on, this can lead to abdominal cramps and spitting (reflux). Are you switching to a different type of food or, for example, from breastfeeding to formula? Perhaps your baby has cramps as a result. Other food is digested differently, the intestines of your child need time to get used to it.

How do you recognize abdominal cramps? 

Most babies who suffer from abdominal cramps become restless about half an hour after feeding and start crying. Other symptoms are a red face, kicking legs and clenched fist bumps. Sometimes your baby also leaves a lot of winds. The cramps occur when your baby is two to three weeks old, this can occur with both breastfeeding and bottle feeding. The peak is around six weeks, after which it fortunately becomes less. After 3 to 4 months, the intestines are used and the cramps are as good as gone. 

Tips for babies who suffer from abdominal cramps 

It is best to calm your baby down and give him peace, for example with rocking or soothing music. Comfort your baby by keeping him or her with you, a baby carrier can be nice here. Also, take a look at these effective tips:

  1. Prevent air in the intestines In a baby who drinks greedily or too quickly, air can be swallowed with it. You can largely prevent this by taking the time for feeding and taking breaks in between. It can help to give your little finger or pacifier for a few minutes before feeding. With bottle feeding you can possibly use a teat with a smaller hole. Do not shake the bottle too hard and make sure that the teat is always filled during feeding. Remember to let your baby burp well after feeding. 
  2. Relieves the pain with heat A warm bath or a lukewarm jug on the stomach will help your baby relax. You can also use a warm cloth and put it on the belly. 
  3. When breastfeeding, pay attention to what you eat If you are breastfeeding, pay extra attention to what you eat yourself. This can be the cause why your baby has colic. Some substances in your food your child can not yet tolerate well. Think of spices, onion, garlic, citrus fruits, chocolate and coffee. Keep a food diary to find out if certain foods are causing a reaction in your baby. 
  4. Stick to a fixed feeding schedule If you bottle-feed, try to maintain regularity. Large changes often cause (extra) abdominal cramps, which of course you want to prevent. Take the time for a burp after feeding, here you keep your baby with his / her belly on your shoulder. 
  5. Soothe your baby with movement/massage It often helps to calm your baby with rhythmic movements. For example, walk around with your baby in your arm or in a sling, walk a bit with the stroller or take a ride in the car. 

Also try these exercises: 

• Place your baby with the belly down (airplane position). 

• Massage your baby’s belly in a bell-shaped motion. 

• Massage your baby’s back while he/she lies with the belly down. 

• Try to hold your baby in a round position. 

• Make cycling movements with your baby’s legs.

Relieve colic with chiropractic 

Did you know that babies can be treated by a chiropractor from birth? Chiropractic helps improve bowel function, which helps reduce abdominal cramps in babies. Special techniques have been developed to offer gentle, safe treatments to babies, without the use of medication. Want to know more about the benefits of chiropractic for babies? Make an appointment for an initial consultation. You do not need a referral from the doctor for this.

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