Sunday, August 5, 2012

COLIC, please help.

Colic- even the word scares up traumatic visions in new mothers and from the memory of experienced mothers. Colic is not a pleasant experience for anyone.  Understanding what it is and what it isn’t may help you cope with it.   There are many reasons why babies cry and not all of them are clear but not all of them are colic. Colic crying tends to occur at around the same time of day and true colic is defined as a baby who cries for more than 3 hours, more than 3 days for more than 3 weeks. Of course, during the first hour or day or week of crying, when you do not have a diagnosis, that is of little comfort.  Colic is a short term, self limiting problem. It may start in the first few weeks and rarely last past the 5th month. This may be some comfort during the crying spells. Fully one-fourth of babies experience some degree of colic so you are not alone. Hopefully, that will help some, if you can remember that when the baby is crying.
All babies have fussy periods for many reasons but if it is short lived or a one-time thing, it is not colic. Also, intense pain crying can be a symptom of a problem so if it is accompanied by changes in babies eating or sleeping pattern or if your baby has experienced a fall or injury, even if it seemed minor, before the crying starts, you should contact your doctor. If the baby is healthy, fed and regular, you may get a diagnosis of colic.
The major symptom is crying, which does not seem to have any reason. The cry is high pitched and very intense and baby is very difficult to console.
The crying usually occurs at the same time every day, often in the early evening.  It is not helpful that this is a tense time in the house in general, with dinner preparation and everybody coming in from work and school.
It often occurs after a feeding and the baby will pass gas or have a bowel movement towards the end of the session, however treatment for gas or digestive disorders have not proven effective in stopping colic.
The baby will appear tense.  He may have tightly fisted hands, try to curl up and have a hard tight stomach.
Because of the pattern of crying and the connection to feeding and gas, it has long been thought that colic was a result of digestive problems, allergies or food triggers. Research does not bear this out. However, gas producing foods and over feeding may worsen the problem rather than help.
Tension in the house has been related to colic because the crying usually begins at a tense time in the house but again, that is not always the case. The crying increases the tension in the house and the increase in tension does increase the crying.
There may be a familial relationship. Babies whose parents had colic are slightly more likely to have colic as well.
Mother’s who smoke during pregnancy and after the baby is born are more likely to have colicky babies but, again, all colicky babies do not have mothers who smoke.
The latest research in the preliminary stages indicates that a type of bacteria, helicobactor pylori, may be responsible for colic. It is present in the stomach but apparently some baby’s immune systems are not strong enough to counteract it. These babies are the ones that demonstrate colic.
The truth is that the exact causes of colic are unknown.  I am sure that this doesn’t give you much comfort. Because there are no clear causes, there is not test for colic. What your doctor will do is rule out other causes of crying. If nothing is found, the doctor may tell you the baby has colic.
Colic generally occurs in healthy, big babies.  It leaves no permanent effects for the baby.  This should be some comfort. Colicky babies do well in all other areas of their lives.  Colic may start at 2 or 3 weeks of age and always decreases by 3 months and disappears by 5 months of age. Such a short time, that may give you some help.  Remember that strategies that help you cope with colic will be useful throughout your baby’s childhood. You can learn what comforts your baby and how to keep yourself calm in difficult situations. I know this is not as comforting as if the baby did not have colic but it is something.
The first and most important thing to do is not to take it personally. It has nothing to do with your parenting skills at all. This is very important because you need to keep your calm in a difficult time and if you are feeling that it is something you are doing that is difficult. (This is a good skill to learn now because it will be helpful when your child is two and contrary and a teenager and trying to establish independence. It will be easier to deal with if you do not take it personally.)
Secondly, avoid smoking and do not let anyone smoke near the baby. There are many reasons for this and colic is one.
Thirdly, you can try carrying your baby around in a wrap or pouch so the legs are flexed and pressure is off the belly.  Placing baby over your legs on his tummy and gently massaging his back may help relieve gas.
Fourth, each baby is different and your baby may respond to white noise (a solid humming sound such as the vacuum cleaner makes), soothing music, gentle massage of the tummy or back or feet (check reflexology techniques), or rocking movements. You will need to see if any of these have an effect on your baby. Some of the techniques in this and point three may work one time and not the next. Keep them in your bag of tricks. At the very least, it will give you a feeling that you are trying something.
Fifth, recent research with probiotics (such as in some yoghurts) is promising but not conclusive. It is suggested that probiotics help the developing  immune system to fight the H. Pylori bacteria mentioned above.
Babies of the age that is affected by colic should be exclusively taking breast milk or formula.  There has been no evidence that changing formula helps at all. It is recommended that breast feeding mothers avoid gas producing foods but this has also not proven to completely solve the problem. Gas release medications have NOT been shown to help and may have side effects so are best avoided.
Sixth, always remember that this will be over by a few months and you will have a healthy, happy baby after that. Try to enjoy the time of day when your baby is not crying and keep those memories in your mind during the crying episodes.
Seventh, do what it takes to keep you calm. If that is pacing or listening to music (ok smoking and drinking are out), do it. Share the experience with your partner (literally taking turns, not just talking about the issue) and find other parents of colicky babies and talk to them.
Finally, and most important, HIRE A BABYSITTER OR GET GRANDMA OVER and get out of the house for a break every three of four episodes (I would go for a pedicure).  I do not say this sarcastically. Tension in the parents has been associated with worsening colic episodes so it is important to take care of yourself.  If someone can relieve you for an episode here and there, you will be better able to handle the other times. Be sure your relief is fully aware of what the situation is and what you have found to help. I can hear the call right now “Hello, could babysit for about an hour and a half tonight at 4. Be aware that baby will probably start crying and won’t stop no matter what you do so you will have to give all your attention to her and maybe bring earplugs to lessen the sound!!” If it isn’t grandma, maybe a little hazard pay will help.
I hope that this is some help.
Rather than a picture of a crying baby, I thought this image might be calming
I hope it helps.

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