Breastfeeding mothers who are concerned about colic may want to watch what they eat.

A study published in the current issue of Pediatrics suggests that excluding highly allergenic foods from a nursing mother’s diet could reduce crying and fussiness in her newborn’s first six weeks of life.

The study involved 90 breastfeeding mothers whose infants showed significant signs of colic. Breastfeeding-only infants with colic who were less than six weeks of age were asked to participate.

For the 10-day study, about half of the mothers avoided eggs, cow’s milk, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy and fish; the other half continued to eat those foods for a week. The mothers first recorded how often their babies cried or fussed on days one and two of the study. Then each group of mothers started its diet regimens for a week. The mothers recorded their babies' crying and fussing again on days eight and nine.

At the end of the study, 74 percent of infants in the low-allergen group experienced at least a 25 percent reduction in crying and fussing. Only 37 percent of infants in the standard-diet group had a similar reduction. “These findings suggest that maternal intake of food allergens is an important factor in the [development] of infantile colic among breastfed infants,” the researchers write.

The researchers caution that breastfeeding mothers should not make drastic diet changes on their own. “Elimination diets have associated risks, particularly if sustained for long periods,” they write. “The nutritional progress of the infant and the mother needs to be monitored closely by an experienced dietitian.”

By Sherry Rauh, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: Hill, D. Pediatrics, Nov. 7, 2005; vol 116: e709–e715. News release, American Academy of Pediatrics.