Naini Setalvad provides diet options for nursing mothers to prevent infantile colic in their babies
One just cannot compare the absolute joy, light, and happiness a newborn baby brings to a household. Watching a tiny life grow and adapt to its surroundings is heart-warming for the parents as well as all the relatives who fuss over the child. This enchanting experience can be dampened when the baby begins to cry incessantly. All babies cry, but it becomes an area of concern when there is continuous wailing for hours. There can be many reasons that elicit this discomfort, but more often than not, the cause is colic.
Infantile colic can be defined by the ‘rule of three’: crying more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week, for more than three weeks a month. The cause of colic in infants is largely unknown, and the fact that infants eventually outgrow it within four to six months suggests slow neurodevelopment that eventually catches up with time, as mentioned by S Wade and T Kilgour in their clinical review on colic. Having said this, there is a strong correlation between the mother’s diet and the occurrence of colic. Here are certain foods a nursing mother should avoid if her child is suffering from colic:
Cruciferous vegetables: Often, lactating mothers are told to consume all types of green vegetables. I say avoid the greens, and by that I mean specifically the green cruciferous vegetables. Cabbage, lettuce, cauliflower, and broccoli can cause discomfort to the child as suggested by a study carried out by K Lust and J Brown. These contain compounds that are hard to breakdown and get transmitted into the mother’s milk and cause the formation of gas in the infant’s belly.
Cow’s milk protein: Cow’s milk is good but not always for a lactating mother. I can vouch that the mother’s consumption of excessive cow’s milk could cause indigestion in the infant due to the milk protein. Studies by Jakobsson I and Lindberg T (1978) suggest the same. Three glasses of milk a day is not a thumb rule for all. I advocate drinking milk as a kadha (herbal decoction) with the inclusion of colic-preventing foods like ginger, gond (Tragacanth gum), hing (asafoetida), and cow’s ghee.
Be careful about certain carbohydrates: Carbohydrates come in many forms. Some are easily digestible, whereas some cause flatulence and bloating. Reducing the intake of foods with the latter type of carbohydrates has been proven beneficial for babies suffering from colic by Maria Iacovou et al. One needs to reduce the quantity of fruits high in fructose like apple, mango, fructan-rich onion, garlic, and watermelon; polyol-packed berries, plums, peaches, and sweet corn; galactan-heavy legumes and pulses; and lactose-rich dairy products. Pomegranate may cause constipation too. Grains, millets, seed grains, and rice are easy to digest in small quantities, accompanied by desi(indigenous) cow’s ghee and non-gassy vegetables (gourd and pumpkin family).
Exclusion of allergens: I have seen that nuts, soy, and eggs can cause severe bloating and discomfort for the mother, transferring it to the child via breast milk, thus increasing colic in the infant. Science too has confirmed this in a study carried out by David J Hill.
For many, raw veggies, sprouts, onions, and garlic may cause gas. The moong and masoordal family is your go-to choice for dals, seasoned with asafoetida, cumin, ginger, and other spices that help prevent gas. Avoid whole pulses like chickpeas, kidney beans and peas.
A lactating mother should include my below-mentioned natural cures to prevent infantile colic:
• Roasted ajwain (carom) seeds with rock salt as a digestive after meals.
• Sip on my Desi Kadha (see recipe below) post breakfast and lunch.
• Slightly warmed ajwain cloth bundles placed on the infant’s chest.
These are a few diet tricks a new mother can keep up her sleeve to ensure that she and her newborn can enjoy the initial months surrounded by love and peace.
1. Prune and Fig Compost Recipe
Preparation time: 10 minutes
4 dried prunes
4 dried figs
1. Chop prunes and figs into half.
2. Soak the prune and fig half for 10 hours. Keep it covered.
3. Store in a fridge.
4. Consume post meals.
2. Roasted Ajwain
2 tbsp raw ajwain seeds
½ tsp water
A pinch of haldi (turmeric powder)
Rock salt to taste
Lemon juice to taste
1. In a small bowl, mix turmeric powder, rock salt,
and lemon juice in water; stir and dissolve.
2. Add the above mixture to the raw ajwain seeds and combine well.
3. Roast the coated ajwain over a slow flame till it turnscrisp.
4. Store in an airtight bottle and consume post meals.
3. Desi Kadha
Preparation time: 15 minutes
1 tsp desi cow’s ghee
¼ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp hing(asafoetida)
2 tsp powdered gond
200 ml water
1. In a vessel pour water and bring to boil.
2. In another vessel add the desi cow’s ghee.
3. In the above, sauté cumin seeds, asafoetida, and gond powder.
4. Pour hot water into the above mixture.
5. Stir continuously till the gond powder dissolves.
6. Sip on this post breakfast and lunch.
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