When you know it’s colic
When your otherwise content baby has a sudden personality shift, colic may be the cause, writes chiropractor Dr Mike Marinus
TWO WEEKS AGO you did something truly amazing – you brought a child into the world and up until now it’s all been a blur of feeding, sleeping, burping and adoring your little bundle.
But tonight. Well, tonight things have changed. Out of the blue your peaceful, contented baby has started pulling her little knees up to her chest, rolling her fists into tiny balls and yelling like the world is coming to an end. Despite your best efforts and trying to calm her, and going through your checklist once, twice, three times, nothing helps.
You change her nappy, try to feed her, even give her a bath, but she just keeps on screaming. Then all of a sudden, as quickly as it began, it’s over as if it never happened.
This scenario plays out countless times a day throughout millions of households around the world – and inevitably leaves new parents wondering what they are doing wrong.
The truth is that you have done nothing wrong – infantile colic is not your fault, nor is it your baby’s fault. It is a phenomenon that occurs in babies across the board, and is in fact so prolific that it is the leading cause of paediatrician visits for children within the first year of life. WHAT IS COLIC? Colic is currently defined as “persistent bouts of inconsolable crying which begin out of the blue, stop just as quickly, and are accompanied by the physical signs of tension. These begin at two to three weeks of age, reach their peak at six weeks and subside around three to four months. The episodes appear more frequently in the early evenings and last for three or more hours, for three or more consecutive days and persist for three weeks”.
In practice as a chiropractor, I see many babies who fall short of the three hour requirements, yet are niggly throughout the day. These babies fall into a category called irritable babies and they can benefit just as much from treatment as babies with what is referred to as true colic.
Interestingly, to get a diagnosis of colic your baby must be perfectly healthy, not malnourished or in any way medically compromised. In fact, a Sheffieldbased study of more than 12 000 babies completed over a thirteen-year period show that colicky babies were actually found to weigh more at birth and gained weight faster than non-colicky babies.
The diagnosis of colic is made when all other alternatives have been excluded. Conditions such as urinary tract infection, middle ear infection, corneal abrasion or even thrush can cause coliclike symptoms. So your first stop is to your paediatrician’s office for a thorough examination to rule out any suspicious underlying causes of your baby’s niggling or crying.
WHAT DOES COLIC LOOK LIKE?
The first thing parents of colicky babies will tell you is that the quality of their child’s cry is different to their usual cries of attention.
It becomes a high-pitched, warbling sound that cannot be ignored. It is engineered in this way to ensure that you stop what you are doing and rush to your baby’s side. Apart from the cry itself there are physical signs to look for: A red face. Knees flexed up to the chest. Hands rolled into fists. Face looks pained. Back arching and neck extension. Rigid body. Sweating and flushed face. Cold feet.
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
If your baby is healthy and there are no long lasting physical effects why are we so worried about it? To quote Dr Barry Lester, author of Why Is My Baby Crying? and leading authority on colic, “While colic may be self-limiting, it is not necessarily limited to self.” Simply put, the effect of colic on the family may last even years after the crying has stopped.
The time of most bonding between mother and child takes place during those first three months and if this time is taken up by crying, fussing and you pulling your hair out in frustration instead of getting to know your child, it becomes increasingly difficult for the relationship to move in a healthy direction. This takes a toll not only on parents (maternal depression is known to be linked to colic) but also has a spill-over effect into your other relationships within the family, causing undue stress and tension.
The development of your baby’s neurological system is directly linked to how she interacts with the world. When she is constantly in a state of stress this development is slowed. New studies show that being exposed to high stress levels during the first weeks of life may affect a baby’s ability to deal with stress and pain later.
Luckily, postnatal classes, clinics, homoeopaths, chiropractors, lactation consultants, GPS and paediatricians are all at your disposal for help and advice.
Don’t wait for your relationship with your baby to deteriorate when there are so many places to turn to – get her diagnosed by her doctor if you suspect colic and then look into the many treatment options available to help ease her, and your, discomfort. YB