A wise doctor
once told me that if you want to feel like an expert on a subject,
read just one guidebook. If you read more than that, you’ll
quickly realize that you are not an expert. Colic is one of those
areas where the theories are many and the cures few. It is not
a simple entity, and it’s not merely gas. Colic is a scary
phase that a significant amount of babies—and their families—go
on how you define it, up to 20% of babies go through some degree
of colic. It seems that colic is a maturational phase of the intestines.
When some babies are born, their intestines aren’t fully
ready to break down their nutrition into amino acids, carbohydrates
and fats. When baby was inside mommy’s belly, he got his
nutrition from her veins, and his gut was never asked to digest
look uncomfortable; they twist and turn and cry—loudly!
Parents often think something is very wrong. After all other conditions
(including things like infection and milk allergy) are ruled out,
the diagnosis is colic.
starts between 2 and 6 weeks, and is over by 12 to 14 weeks. That
isn’t a very long time, but it can seem like forever when
your baby is wailing for no apparent reason! But colicky babies
are not actually irritable all the time—it just seems that
way. An episode can last for over an hour, but the baby is also
often happy and can smile and eat well.
many “cures” out there, from gripe water to Humphries
(which are actually very dangerous!). Mylecon drops can help a
little, and are safe, but I prefer to try non-medical approaches.
Shushing and swaying can be effective, along with dimming the
lights and speaking in low voices. Rubbing the intestines from
right to left and bicycling a baby’s legs are also soothing.
The book The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey
Karp has a good section on why a baby might be colicky and how
to alleviate discomfort.
recommend changing a breastfeeding
mom’s diet. This is a phase that many babies go through,
and the content of the breast milk they are eating may not be
the culprit. I have seen many women eliminate milk from their
diet, then beans, then citrus, then spicy foods, then gluten—only
to become malnourished and cranky themselves! When the colic eventually
runs its course, we think we’ve found the offending ingredient,
but the colic probably would have passed anyway.
Having a colicky
baby can be very stressful. Try to hang in there and do let your
support system (including your pediatrician) know if you are feeling
overwhelmed. In Brooklyn, there are even support groups dedicated
to colic. This is not an easy phase to go through, but as long
as it’s really colic, every baby gets through it eventually.
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