While my middle son was home for a long weekend, the discussion about who was the most difficult baby in our family came up once again. Whew, COLIC!!! I still cringe thinking back about the first 6 months of my now 26-year-old's life.
No one really knows what causes colic and there are many different definitions of colic. The word is derived from the ancient Greek word Kolikos, which means pertaining to the intestines. (vague enough)
Colic typically begins somewhere between the 3rd and 6th week of a newborn's life. Doctors have looked up and down for medical problems with these babies and I can attest to the fact that the most frustrating (although reassuring) thing is that they are HEALTHY.
Colicky babies cry and they cry much more than the average baby. While most newborns cry somewhere around 3 -4 hours/ day, a colicky baby will cry for hours on end. While doing so they typically draw their legs up, get stiff and arch their backs and turn bright red and I remember our son even seemed to get hoarse from crying so much. Colic typically occurs throughout the day and night which is different than that evening fussy spell that most babies experience. The crying makes parents feel anxious, frustrated, exhausted, concerned and everyone just wants an ANSWER! If you can solve the mystery of colic you will win the Nobel Prize in medicine as well as the hearts of every parent.
As physicians I tell parents that colic is short lived and self-limited, but those terms are relative when you are living through what we affectionately termed, baby hell. After listening to incessant crying short lived means less than 10 minutes! Colicky babies have very intense cries, whether they are wet, startled, need to burp or are just uncomfortable. They tend to be tense andjust never seem to relax.
A colicky baby is difficult for any parent, whether you are a first time parent or seasoned. It is difficult to not blame yourself for your babies crying and the fantasy of that perfect baby is shattered. These babies are not like babies on TV. A colicky baby provokes exhaustion and can lead to things like breast feeding failures, marital discord, post partum depression and even child abuse.
So what do you do and what are the current theories? More to come!