Colic

Colic is said to affect approximately 1 in 5 babies in the United States, and is discussed in baby circles almost as much as infant sleeping and feeding habits.  Aside from illness, it is every parent’s worst nightmare, and because of this, dozens of books, videos, websites, and pediatrician’s visits are dedicated to the subject.  The cause of colic has been a much-debated subject dating back hundreds of years, if not more.  Some people doubt it actually exists.  Others firmly blame under or over-feeding; too much time in the wind; gas from allergies to formula or breastmilk; reflux; mothers who are overly attentive and fuss over their babies too much, and on and on.  The one constant though is parents who are in desperate need of help.  Feelings of disappointment and guilt are often prevalent in the parents of colicky babies, as the screaming, writhing creature in their arms in no way resembles the angelic, smiling baby they expected.

Consults:

  • 60-90 minute private consultation (in-person or skype)

  • Customized plan tailored to your specific situation
  • Daily follow-up phone calls during the week following your consult
  • Unlimited emails good for 1 month after your consult
  • Access to my lending library of books on breastfeeding, sleeping, birthing, child development and more
  • A list of resources including local activities for babies and children, as well as recommended books and websites
  • 10% discount on any of my classes on parenting, cloth diapering, baby wearing, sleeping, and more

Price: $650/600         

Read below for more information on colic...

The definition of colic is often debated, and is typically characterized by the Wessel Rule of Threes:

  • More than 3 hours of crying a day, three or more days per week, lasting for 3 weeks or longer. 

For many parents though, it does not take 3 hours of crying a day for them to determine their baby has colic.  For my purposes here, I will define colic as intense and violent crying lasting at least 1 ½ hours a day, in an otherwise healthy infant, and happening often enough that the parents come looking for help.  I do not include ‘fussiness’ in my definition, because all babies fuss and all babies require care and soothing ALL DAY LONG.  This is simply parenting and is not a disease that needs a cure, though it can be exhausting.

 

Some facts about colic:

Due to many recent studies, we now know more about what colic is NOT, than what it is.  Listed below are some common things that we now know:

  • Colic is not due to gas—radiological studies of infants during a colicky fit have disproved this theory, as have barium enemas done at the same time.  This theory received great press because babies with colic tend to be very gassy.  However, the gas is due to the swallowing of air during crying; the crying is not due to the gas.
  • Colic only occurs in otherwise healthy infants—in other words, if your baby has vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, blood in their stools, hasn’t slept from teething/illness/time change (etc), that is NOT colic.  Colic only occurs in infants where no other discernible cause for the crying can be found.
  • Your baby is not crying because he/she is in pain—if this is the case, a medical reason exists and your baby has a medical problem that should be appropriately treated.  Healthy babies are not in pain.
    • This theory has stuck because babies with colic tend to scream with great intensity, turn red in the face, harden their stomachs, and draw their legs up as if they have abdominal pain.  This is, in fact, how all infants cry when they are greatly upset, regardless of the reason.
  • Colic is not due to formula allergies—true allergies, and even sensitivities, would present with vomiting, diarrhea, and probably blood in the stools which would mean there was a medical reason for the crying that would exclude the baby from the ‘otherwise healthy’ part of our definition.  Formula changes are almost always ineffective (and often costly).  They are most likely a way for doctors to stall until the colic (hopefully) ‘passes’. 
  • Colic is not due to a breastmilk allergy from something the mother ate—again, this would remove the child from the ‘otherwise healthy’ category.  This is very rarely the case in infants and mothers should not jump to the conclusion that their breastmilk is the cause and attempt to start eliminating foods from their diet.  This can be detrimental to both the mother’s health, as well as her infant’s. 
  • Some cases of colic may be due to low melatonin levels in the infant, but more studies need to be done before any conclusions are drawn (melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland that helps regulate your circadian rhythm so that you sleep at night and are awake during the day).
  • Sleep training your baby by letting him/her cry-it-out (CIO), is not the answer.  CIO techniques have been found to raise baby’s blood pressures, heart rate, and level of cortisol (stress hormone).  Increased cortisol levels over extended periods of time destroy brain cells and can lead to impaired brain development in infants, as well as have a negative impact on your baby’s trust in you and the world around them.  These infants tend to grow up to be "clingy, anxious" toddlers.  For more research on the effects of CIO, click here.
  • Colic tends to lessen around 3-4 months (though not always) as babies become better able to communicate their needs, change their own position, etc.
  • In cultures where babies are constantly held, fed on demand, and attended to without delay when they fuss, colic is virtually unheard of.

 

My Philosophy:

While colic may have underlying causes as yet unknown to us, it is very likely that at least some cases can be prevented or treated by using very simple, often intuitive parenting practices.  My goal is to help you (in your likely sleep-deprived state), learn how to do just that so that you can start enjoying your wonderful baby.

 

The Treatment Plan:

Colic is a very serious issue for those families dealing with it, especially since it affects everyone in the household.  It is one of the leading causes of child abuse in the United States and should be taken seriously when parents reach out for help. 

The first step in treatment is seeing a pediatrician who will take your concerns seriously.  A very thorough physical exam should be done in which all possible medical causes are ruled out.  This may or may not include blood work if your doctor feels it is warranted.  However, if you feel you are not being heard or taken seriously, or are being asked to try expensive and time-consuming formula changes, maternal dietary changes, or gas drops, please get a 2nd opinion.  Sure, everyone knows someone who tried a new formula and miraculously had a cure, but this is rare and in all likelihood is a mere coincidence.

Once you have ruled out all possible medical causes and determined your baby to be ‘otherwise healthy’, we will set up a time to meet where I will guide you and support you through the rest of your customized treatment plan.  As mentioned before, I do not use cry-it-out techniques (the purpose is less crying, right?), only gentle ones that have been proven to work.  The initial consult will last anywhere from 1-3 hours depending on the situation, and will be a flat fee.  Subsequent support and advice will be done via phone or email if possible.  If further consults are necessary, we can schedule those as needed. 


References:

Taubman, B.: Why is My Baby Crying?  Harrisburg, White Hat Communication, 2000.

Weissbluth, M.: Your Fussy Baby.  New York, Random House Publishing, 2003.

Sears, W., Sears, M.: The Attachment Parenting Book.

Sheldon, S., et al.: Principles and Practice of Pediatric Sleep Medicine.  Philadelphia, Elsevier Saunders, 2005.

 

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