It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. Baby is crying and nothing you seem to do has any effect on them. You’ve tried walking. You’ve tried driving. You’ve tried feeding, changing, rocking. You’ve sang gentle songs to them. My parents personally claimed that they would spend hours walking in circles from the living room to the dining room to the kitchen threatening to put me in the microwave (hey, it was the 80s – and they never actually did it…)
Colic. It has reduced more new and sleep-deprived moms to tears than just about anything else. There is nothing like it when it comes to making strong capable women question their abilities as a mother. And, according to most practitioners there is not much you can do about it.
But you all know how I hate being told that there’s nothing to be done about a problem.
So let’s learn a little more about colic – what it is, what may cause it, and what can be done.
What is This Screaming Creature and What Has It Done with my Baby?
Colic is loosely defined as any well-fed infant otherwise healthy baby crying for three hours, at least three days a week, for at least 3 weeks. It’s not a diagnosis or disease, exactly. It’s basically a catch-all for something that frustrates pretty much everyone it effects. Colic bouts are typically in the late afternoon or early evening. They tend to start when an infant is a couple weeks old and last until around three months. Gender, birth order, and breast vs. bottle fed don’t seem to have an effect. There don’t seem to be any obvious precipitating factors (in fact, if there is something like a fall, fever, or rash the baby should be taken to the doctor immediately). There are just a whole bunch of questions.
“Why Me?” Says Mom, Dad, and, Probably, Baby
The cause of colic is unknown, officially. Initially, it was believed to be caused by gas or intestinal upset. Some variation of this is still the prevailing theory behind the cause. It may be some sort of silent reflux (think baby hearburn), a sensitivity to milk proteins or lactose, or spasms in a growing digestive tract. For this reason, diet modification is usually the first thing doctors suggest, whether that be changing formulas or adjusting what mom’s eating.
Then there’s the latest research. Released in 2014, a meta-analysis of existing research showed that colic may be a form of infant migraine. There was a higher instance of migraine in mothers of babies with colic compared to the general population. Also, children and adolescents with migraines were 6.6 times more likely than their unaffected peers to have had colic when they were infants. More research needs to be done to establish an indisputable link between these two poorly understood conditions, but simple steps can be taken that would help on the chance that they ARE linked, such as removing stimulation, turning down the lights, and holding the baby.
Of course, there’s also my personal favorite potential cause of colic, listed on webMD…you might just have “a moody baby.” Seriously. Seriously?! Seriously.
But Don’t Discount WebMD Just Yet (Except for When It Told You That Mosquito Bite Was the Bubonic Plague)
Right beneath our moody baby explanation, at the very, very end of the list of potential causes, WebMD lists a possible contributing factor as “a still-developing nervous system”.
Bingo. Now you’re speaking my language.
So lets talk about how chiropractic is the best kept secret when it comes to colicky babies.
It’s not that I don’t care what causes colic. I do. I’m curious as to ways to help prevent the condition from occurring or reoccurring. But when it comes to what I do as a chiropractor to help a baby that has colic, the cause does not change my approach. As a chiropractor, I am not in the business of chasing symptoms. My job is to make sure that the nervous system – the chief control of the whole body – is able to do it’s job unimpeded. I do this be making sure all the bones of the spine and extremities are in their proper alignment so that inflammation around the nerve is reduced and the bones and muscles can move as they we designed. It just so happens that when those things are allowed to happen, the body has a wonderful way of working through what ails it. Like colic. Whether it’s the digestive tract still growing, the nervous system still developing, or a migraine coming on, having the bones where they belong is going to take pressure off the nervous going to the intestines and head and everywhere else so that the body can more efficiently talk to itself. And talking to yourself is a good thing.
I can’t say that chiropractic cures colic. Chiropractic doesn’t cure anything (you all must be tired of reading that by now). But I can say that clinically, I have seen mom’s come into my office and hug me saying “thank you” over and over because they were able to get some sleep. I’ve seen babies go back to being nothing but a source of joy for their families. And I’ve seen it often. All I do is make sure the body can do what it was designed to: grow and adapt. There rest is up to your little munchkin. And it’s amazing how much they can do without any interference.
To find a chiropractor who is well-versed in working with infants and their very sleepy parents, visit the ICPA website.