Colic can be heart breaking for parents: baby screaming for hours on end, not knowing what is wrong, unable to soothe baby… You are told by many to “wait it out” or “this too shall pass” but that doesn’t help a tired, stressed parent which in turn contributes to baby’s irritability. You are willing to try ANYTHING to get baby to stop crying but what are the different options available? Colic seems to be regularly given out as a diagnosis associated with spells of abdominal pain in infants between the age of 2 weeks and 4 months of age and causes great confusion amongst parents. I heard a parent recently state “colic can cause constipation” and another say “What is colic? Please my Pead says my 5 day old baby has it but couldn’t tell me what it is.” In 1954, Dr. Morris Wessel, a well-known paediatrician, defined an infant with colic as “one who, otherwise healthy and well-fed, had paroxysms of irritability, fussing, or crying lasting for a total of three hours a day and occurring on more than three days in any one week for a period of three weeks.” It’s not a cause of anything nor a helpful diagnosis, it is merely a description.
When babies first come into the world, the only way they have to communicate with us as parents is to cry. This can be very confusing, especially for first time parents, as it takes time to learn your babies ‘language’ and be able to answer their needs. Your baby cries to tell you that they are too hot or too cold, have an empty tummy or a wet/dirty bottom, if they need to be cuddled or if they are over stimulated. When baby cries these are normally the fist things that you would check for, if none of these works what should be your next steps?
Chiropractic has been used by families for a long time as a way of addressing colic, in fact some studies have shown Chiropractic to have a 94% success rate for colic. Chiropractors aim to get to the root of the problem rather than temporarily treating symptoms. The birth process can be very traumatic for a tiny baby’s body, regardless of a normal birth or surgical birth. The birth process, along with prolonged periods of sitting in forced positions in car seats, prams and poorly designed baby carriers can cause misalignments in baby’s spine (Subluxations). These subluxations can distort the nerve signals between the brain and the body, preventing the messages getting from the brain to the correct parts of the body at the correct time. We use very specific, gentle adjustments (about the same pressure you would put on a ripe tomato to make a dent or on your eyelid before it hurt) to correct any misalignments to the spine that relives the pressure on the nervous system and allows the body to function at it’s best.
Paying attention to our nutrition for the benefit of baby shouldn’t stop once we have given birth. If you are breastfeeding your baby, maybe there is something that you are eating that is causing baby to be uncomfortable. Common culprits for this are grains, dairy and sugars. Try cutting them out of your diet for a minimum of 30 days and take note of how you feel and the changes you notice in baby. Focus on eating real food, not processed crap! Meat, fish, foul, eggs, veggies, fruit, some nuts & seeds. A great general rule of thumb is to avoid foods that come in a packet with 3 or more ingredients. If you feel the need, introduce them one at a time after the 30 days and take note of any changes. For those who are unable to breastfeed, check the formula that baby is on. Maybe there are one or more of the ingredients that your baby doesn’t agree with.
Babies today are born into a fast paced technology-driven world with lots of foreign stimulation that can overwhelm your new baby’s system. Take the time to get back to basics with your little one. Touch is a primal need: it is an important way for parents and baby to communicate. Often the healing power of touch can help to calm and soothe baby and allow them to process outside stimulation better. Getting lots of skin-to-skin time can promote health on psychological, emotional, developmental and physiological levels. Massage is a great way to fulfil the need for nurturing touch. It is also great for reducing tension and irritability in both parent and baby. The benefits of infant massage can also be carried through to adulthood. http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/baby_massage.html
Another suggestion is to calm your baby’s senses and reduce over stimulation by wearing them in a carrier. Babywearing is the practice of wearing or carrying a baby in a sling or in another form of carrier and has been practiced for centuries around the world. It allows baby to see, hear, taste, smell and touch the parent not only increasing the bond between parent and baby but also satisfying the primal needs of baby resulting in a much calmer, soothed baby. Safety and what to look for in a baby carrier is a whole article in itself but here is a quick guide on what to look out for in a baby carrier:
- Carrier should always allow baby to be in a squatting straddle position (a froggy or M position reducing risk of Dysplasia of the hip).
- Material supporting the bottom should also support the thigh to the knee.
- Baby should always be carried facing inwards (supporting the natural C curve of baby’s spine and protecting baby from over stimulation).
- Head and neck support for baby.
- Wide or cushioned adjustable shoulder straps.
- Even distribution of baby’s weight across your body.
- Easy to load/unload baby into/out of carrier.
- Carrier that doesn’t put pressure on your own spine (to avoid unnecessary spinal injuries).
For more information about baby wearing have a look here.
No medications have been proven both safe and effective in the treatment of infantile colic. Medications will only mask over the symptoms to gain temporary relief, they do not get to the root of the problem for a long-term solution. Masking over the symptoms may cause problems to build up over time and the body to compensate and manifest in a different way affecting your baby’s health later in life. Medications can often be dispensed too hastily. Encourage your physician to look into the cause of your baby crying by doing a full examination (which they should hopefully be doing anyway!). If your baby’s physician prescribes medication for colic:
- Find out what specifically the physician is diagnosing.
- Find out the name of the medication and ask to look at the insert for it.
- Read up on the adverse effects of the medication.
We are not ruling out medications completely, they are fantastic in a crisis. We are encouraging you to gain full informed consent before deciding to take any medication. Conventional medicine can be very hit and miss in both diagnosing and treating colic. Please seek alternatives to allopathic medicine for your little one as a first point of call if they are colicy. If you feel that your physician is not meeting your and your baby’s needs you have the right to a second opinion. Parents know their child best. Paediatricians are specialists in treating sick children, not healthy children. I am not suggesting that you should ignore your Paediatrician, merely suggesting that you save Paed visits for when your child is sick.
We at Peak Chiropractic are a Vitalistic practice and are specifically trained to assess the spine and nervous system to detect, analyse and correct misalignments. By performing safe, gentle and specific ‘adjustments’, Chiropractors can realign the spine and restore proper communication between the body and the brain. For lifestyle advice on nutrition, movement and head space try starting with The 4 Foundations For Well-Being.
Call Peak Chiropractic 021 671 3303.
Our aim is to help you and your family to Thrive! Please post your questions/comments below.
Klougart N, Nilsson N and Jacobsen J (1989) J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1989 (Aug);12 (4): 281-288