Could acupuncture be the key to reducing excessive crying in babies?

Could acupuncture help soothe babies with colic? [Photo: Getty]

As any parent who’s had a baby with colic will understand you’d literally try anything to stop the crying. Jiggling them til your arm goes dead, going for a drive in the middle of the night, turning on hoover at 3am, and on, and on.

But, a new study has found that acupuncture could be a go-to cure for helping soothe a colicky baby.

The research published in Acupuncture in Medicine found that the practice may reduce incidences of excessive crying in babies who have a condition known as infantile colic.

Scientists at Lund University in Sweden trialled the ancient Chinese needle technique on a group of babies who were crying for more than three hours a day, for three or more days of the week and found they came through the condition far quicker than those who received no acupuncture.

The study looked at 147 babies aged between two and eight weeks old and all suffering from colic who were then split into three groups. Two groups were given acupuncture; in the first group one needle was inserted to a depth of 3mm for a few seconds and in the second group up to five needles were inserted for up to 30 seconds.

The time the babies spent crying excessively reduced in all three groups, but researchers found that the groups given acupuncture appeared to reduce their crying at a slightly faster rate and tended to be calmer in the long term.

Dr Kajsa Landgren, who led the study at Lund University, told The Sun: “Colic is a spontaneously healing condition but can cause pain in the infant and lots of stress in the family. Many desperate parents want to shorten this strenuous period and seek help in complementary medicine as there is no effective medication available. We found that infants who received acupuncture cried less.”

The goal was not to cut out crying completely but to reduce it in babies crying excessively.

“Fussing and crying are normal communications for a baby, therefore a reduction to normal levels, rather than silence, is the goal of treatment,” researchers said of the study results.

“For those infants that continue to cry for more than three hours a day, acupuncture may be an effective treatment option.”

Would you give your baby acupuncture? [Photo: Getty]

But not all experts agree that there is enough evidence to consider acupuncture a safe and effective approach to reducing a colicky baby’s cries.

Professor David Colquhoun, a pharmacologist at University College London, said: “What parent would think that sticking needles into their baby would stop it crying?

“The idea sounds bizarre. This paper certainly doesn’t show that it works.”

Infantile colic affects up to one in five babies and though it is harmless it can be very distressing and frustrating for parents. Though the frequent, excessive crying will normally subside by the time the baby is six months old, parents can often feel helpless in being unable to soothe their baby’s cries.

The causes of colic are unknown, but some experts believe that indigestion, trapped wind or a gut which is sensitive to breast or formula milk could be contributing factors.

In terms of treatment the NHS website recommends a number of techniques including holding your baby during a crying episode, burping your baby after feeds, gently rocking them over your shoulder, and massaging your baby’s tummy.

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