March 2012

COLIC: One of the most distressing problems to confront a new mother and father is an infant who cries uncontrollably and who seemsĀ inconsolable. The parents become frightened because the child appears to be in distress, they become frustrated because they cannot seem to solve the problem and calm him/her down, and they become tired because the crying keeps everyone from getting a restful sleep. The resulting tension, fatigue, and anxiety in the parents unfortunately compounds the problem and makes the child cry more.

Colic is many things to many people. It has been attributed to immature intestines, to gas pain, to poor bowel habits, to problems with the formula or the breast milk. Colic, however, is almost never related to these “problems”. It is caused by excessive infant fatigue compounded by continued stimulation and inability to rest, compounded by parental anxiety and fears. Colic is easily prevented once you are aware of it’s cause. Some babies with milk intolerance or severe spitting up can be extremely fussy as well, and if you suspect this may be an issue with your newborn, please make an appointment for evaluation in the office.

A newborn requires a great deal of rest. He/she will sleep two-thirds to three quarters of the day, or even longer. Without sufficient rest, he/she will be unable to eat properly, and will have actual physical distress. This sleep deprived and over stimulated state is called “frazzled” by many people.

An infant thrives on the warmth, tenderness, confidence and assurance of his/her mother and father. If the parents are nervous, fatigued, upset or just plain worried, these feelings will be communicated to the infant and will make it difficult or impossible to comfort him/her. The best way to avoid these negative feelings is to avoid fatigue. Get plenty of rest!

A newborn infant has no way of knowing which of those objects, noises, colors or voices in his/her environment are important and which ones are not. He/she will do his/her best to concentrate on all of them at once. Obviously, this is exhausting work. Thus, the more stimulation in an infant’s environment, the more tired he will become. Infants are like newborn puppies and kittens; too much handling by too many children (or adults!) will make them sick, weak and unable to nurse effectively.

From the foregoing it can be seen that the easiest way to prevent colic is to prevent fatigue, both for mother and child:

  1. Minimize your baby’s exposure to other people. He/she is not a new doll that should be passed from person to person for all to hold. Keep his/her interests first.
  2. Do not take him/her out with crowds. For an infant, more than two or three people is a crowd.
  3. Allow him/her to sleep in a quiet, undisturbed area of the house. Do not wake him/her so that others may see him/her, and do not wake him/her to go to the store or friend’s house.
  4. Get plenty of rest. You will be much better able to handle the demands of your child if you are rested than if your are fatigued and bordering on exhaustion.
  5. Remain confident in your ability to care for your child. No one is better qualified to take care of your infant than you are. Have confidence in yourself.
  6. Your baby will thrive on the attention that you give him/her. Those quiet times during the day and night when he/she is awake and quietly looking about are extremely important. When he/she is “being quiet and good,” make every effort to hold, talk, and play with him/her. These are the times that he/she will learn the most from you (and when you will have the most fun with him/her).
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