Dr. Alan Greene suggests trying these ideas during the colicky
All parents-to-be expect to deal with occasional
bouts of crying, but almost nothing can prepare you for the
inconsolable tears and screams of a colicky baby.
Experts estimate that about 30 percent of babies will experience
colic at some point. Think your baby's one of them? The first step
is to identify the problem:
Colic typically follows the "rule of threes," says Dr. Alan
Greene, pediatrician and author of the book Feeding Baby Green. If
your baby is crying for three or more hours a day (primarily in the
evening), three or more days a week and is under 3 months old,
then, assuming other habits like sleeping, eating and body
temperature are normal, you're likely dealing with colic.
Traditionally, the medical community has looked at colic
as a behavioral condition that comes from too much stress or
over-stimulation, similar to how we used to think ulcers in adults
were caused by stress, Greene says.
A recent study, though, has indicated there may be
something that is actually causing physical pain in these children,
perhaps stemming from their intestines. While more research is
still needed, Greene says you may find relief by giving your child
Nursing moms will naturally transfer probiotics to their
babies-eating a high culture yogurt or probiotic packet can boost
that effect (just make sure to choose a product that has five
billion colonies in it, regular yogurt has just one billion). If
you're formula feeding, look for a probiotic formula, or ask your
doctor about sprinkling it on your existing product. It's also
worth asking whether your baby could be allergic to cow's milk,
While your natural instinct is to do everything you can to
ease your baby's discomfort, Greene reminds parents to take care of
themselves first: "In case of an emergency, put your own oxygen
mask on first," he says, quoting the now famous in-flight safety
"This is a major life-changing situation, and you really
need to be able to take care of yourself to take care of your
baby," he says.
Make sure to take plenty of naps, especially when the baby
is sleeping, and consume the kinds of foods that make you feel
best-Greene recommends eating the kind of food you'd choose if you
needed to attend an important meeting.
During this time, give yourself permission to ask friends
and family for the kind of support you need most, says Dr. Linda
Gilkerson, professor and executive director of the Fussy Baby
Network at the Erikson Institute in Chicago. Whether you're looking
for someone to come and sit with you when your baby is crying the
most or you want someone to drop off food that you can eat with one
hand, this is a special time when it's all right to reach out,
Try creating slow, rhythmic routines that will soothe both
you and the baby, she suggests, like making a plan to walk back and
forth in front of all of the windows every day when she starts
Frustrated parents can also take advantage of a unique
local resource: Gilkerson's organization operates a "Warm Line"
from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday for parents with a fussy baby,
whether or not she has colic. "Putting a name on it and sharing it
with another person who is supportive is really, really important,"
she says, explaining that you can call (888) 431-BABY to speak to
someone for no charge. The Fussy Baby Network also offers in-home
visits with sliding-scale fees, as well as in-clinic service
(erikson.edu/fbn.aspx or e-mail [email protected]
The good news? If it is colic, the worst symptoms tend to
peak around 3-6 weeks. "About the time it gets unbearable, it
starts to get better," Greene says.
And it can actually have a positive effect on families,
bringing them closer and preparing them for the changes that
parenthood will ultimately bring. "If babies weren't demanding a
lot of attention, then it would be pretty easy to fall back into
your pre-baby patterns," he says.
See more of Laura's stories here.
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