Baby health queries tackled by our expert

Confused about colic or puzzled about painkillers? Our expert answers your questions…

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Q: My three-month-old is suffering from colic, but I’m not keen on giving her medication. Are there any alternative remedies?

A: The reasons for colic are unknown, but a fast or difficult birth experience can lead to tension in the nervous and digestive systems, creating a tendency to colic. A cranial osteopath can gently release any tension held since the birth, as well as stress from crying episodes.

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Baby massage can also help, by eliminating wind, releasing happy hormones and relaxing the digestive system. Your health visitor should be able to recommend a class, but if you want to try for yourself, let your instinct and your baby’s responses guide you. In general, warm your hands first, then using gentle fingertips, stroke from the right hip up round the tummy and down into the left side. Massaging directly above the navel and in the webbing between the thumb and finger also seems to help.

Q: What painkillers are safe to take while breastfeeding? I’m finding the sheer number of brands available daunting and I certainly don’t want to make the wrong decision.

A: There are a number of over-the counter analgesics (painkillers) suitable to take while breastfeeding. The main one is paracetamol, with the maximum dose of two 500mg tablets, four times a day. There are a number of brands containing paracetamol and some of them have additional ingredients – like caffeine, for example. You should check with the pharmacist before taking any preparation with other ingredients to ensure that they are safe. Ibuprofen is also considered safe to take in pregnancy, although women with a history of stomach ulcers or asthma should avoid this type of drug.

Both paracetamol and ibuprofen will pass through the breast milk, but it is believed that the amount is very small. Aspirin is not recommended for women who are breastfeeding, however. If you find you need to take painkillers frequently, discuss it with your GP. It is also worthwhile considering nonpharmacological methods of pain relief.

Q: My baby has eczema on her arms and legs. She scratches all the time, especially at night. I am using the medication she has been prescribed, but is there anything else I can do?

A: Avoid moisturising or bathing products that contain perfumes, preservatives and harsh soap-based cleansers, as these increase skin sensitisation and dehydration and can trigger eczema. Avoid baths before bed, as the skin is most vulnerable when exposed to hot water, and short, warm baths are preferable as bathing disrupts the protective barrier on the skin. It’s also important to keep the skin moisturised. Pat her dry and apply moisturisers as soon as possible. Essential fatty acids in evening primrose and flaxseed oil can reduce eczema inflammation. You can pierce a capsule and add drops to her milk or food.

Q: I want to use natural products for bathing my baby, especially as I’m worried about him inheriting my eczema. Any suggestions?

A: I advise keeping products to a minimum, as they increase sensitisation and can trigger eczema. A good bath remedy is to put porridge oats in a nylon stocking, sock this in boiling water and when it has cooled, add it to the tub. The oats give out a moisturising fluid that is known to calm itching.

After bathing, pat your son dry and apply moisturisers. Green Baby make products that will not irritate sensitive skin, while Napiers’ Infant Starflower Cream contains camomile to cool, calm and moisturise.

Mum’s tips

“When my little one had sticky eye, I was told to wipe it with cotton wool dabbed in cooled boiled water, but because the cotton wasn’t sterile, it took ages to treat. Now I put pieces of cotton wool into a pan of cold water, boil it, then pour it into a sterile container to use throughout the day.”

Sam Richardson, 43, from Bexley, mum to Curtis, 16, Tobias, 14 and Oscar, 15 months

“After trying many teething gels and powders, I thought that I wouldn’t find anything that would help my little boy with his pain. A friend recommended Nelsons Teetha Teething Granules (£5.10 from Boots) and they were so effective that I noticed a change in him almost immediately. The granules were easy to use, Theo took to them well and they helped him cut his first two teeth with ease.”

Kelly Collinson, 23, from Treherbert, mum to Theo, 6 months

“If your baby’s got a bunged up nose and is struggling to sleep, raise the cot up slightly at the head end – this really helps clear them out.”

Lara Smith, 26, mum to Simon, 7 months

“If your baby’s teething but you’re worried about giving her medicine, try dipping a dummy in Calpol, which will soothe sore gums as your baby sucks.”

Tracy, 29, mum to Bethany, 3 months and Rebecca, 2

“When your baby’s teething, dip a dummy in Calpol for them to suck. I found this really eased the pain – and helped us all get more sleep!”

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Rachel, 30, mum to Susie, 5 and Laura, 8 months

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