Many women assume that when they choose to breast-feed that they are sidestepping colic and so many other belly problems for their baby. The fact is, colic is an equal opportunity pest and will afflict babies that are breast-fed, bottle fed, or a combination of the two. Luckily, there are some things that you can do as a breastfeeding mother to help stop the pain, or at least reduce it.
Because colic is somewhat of a medical mystery, your options and what works to relieve your baby's pain is sort of hit and miss. Some things may not work at all, and other things may only work some of the time. The best advice is to keep trying until you find what works to bring some relief, or until your baby simply grows out of the colicky stages. Even if you cannot totally eliminate the colic, sometimes you can get significant relief by changing what you are doing just a little bit.
The first thing you can do to help reduce the pain your baby is feeling is to burp your baby. Many mothers that breastfeed assume that they needn't burp their baby because they get less air than babies that are bottle-fed. This is simply untrue; your baby is still prone to gulping and eating quickly, so you should burp before you start feeding, after your child nurses on one breast, and then again after your child nurses on the second breast. Burping will help to reduce the amount of air trapped in the intestines, which seems to be associated with many babies who exhibit symptoms of colic.
Another simple thing you can do is to eliminate dairy products from your diet. Many babies have a sensitivity or allergy to milk proteins that are passed from mother to child through the breast milk. If you stop eating diary products for a week or two you'll likely see a huge difference in your child's colicky behavior. Sometimes, just cutting down on how much you are eating or when you are eating it will work, you'll just have to experiment and see what bothers your little one. You might also want to eliminate or reduce the amount of caffeine you are consuming. Many babies become terribly irritable from caffeine.
Another thing that you might want to do to keep your baby from suffering is to hold your baby more during the day. While you already hold your baby during feedings, babies that are held more than three hours per day are proven to have fewer problems with colic than those that are held for less than three hours. If you're worrying about spoiling your little bundle of joy, you can't spoil a baby less than four months of age, so snuggle them and hold them close when the mood strikes!
Motherhood is stressful, especially in the first weeks after delivery when you are trying to get into a routine. Not only are you recovering from pregnancy and delivery, your hormones are raging, and you probably aren't getting much sleep. This can leave the best mother very stressed and tense. Try to relax, as every emotion you are feeling is passed on to your baby and internalized. Tension often causes colic, so get some help from your spouse, family, friends, or a babysitter so you can get some rest, and release any stress or tension you are feeling. There is no shame in asking for help, and your baby will be better for it.
The best thing you can do is to continue to breast feed your child, as you'll both benefit from the closeness it inspires. With a few minor changes, you'll likely see a huge improvement in the colic. Breastfeeding and motherhood are rough, but they only get more difficult with colic, so get motivated to make some small changes, and hopefully colic will become a thing of the past.