Colic - A Myth or a Reality?

The word ‘colic’ is often said to parents of a miserable baby. Baby won’t stop crying? Colic. Baby constipated and struggling to poo? Colic. Baby arching his back and writhing around in pain? Colic.

How can colic be so easy to diagnose yet every colicky baby seems to have different symptoms, but all have one thing in common. Misery. Both baby and parents are absolutely miserable. Health professionals look for the rule of three; is your baby crying for three hours or more, for three days a week over the course of three weeks? Now in my opinion I think this “rule” is completely outdated. Modern medicine has come along so much and knowledge of the infant’s development is now more understood, yet they still revert to this rule to diagnose a baby.

So what is colic? To be honest, I don’t think anyone really knows. This is what really frustrates me. It is a diagnosis that is given to so many parents by health professionals, yet it doesn’t address anything. It certainly doesn’t help a baby who is so upset and in obvious pain. If your baby is otherwise healthy and gaining weight then no help is provided and you are left trying to cope. This is not to say that it is a myth. Your baby's pain is absolutely real.

The main question I want to address is; is colic a collection of symptoms rather than a condition itself? I think it is a collection of symptoms rather than a condition and we should stop treating the symptoms and think about the cause. If we don’t know the cause then how can we treat a baby successfully and stop the family’s misery? More needs to be done to understand the baby, the family history and see beyond the initial symptoms.

One baby’s colic is different to another’s and this is because it is a different problem. One baby may be sensitive who is trying to adjust to this new world, and the only way she can communicate her distress is to cry. She has a red face, she clenches her fists and seems inconsolable. This baby’s misery is completely different to a baby who’s body is having an allergic response to milk, and can only tell his parents that he feels rubbish with tummy ache and feeling nauseous is to cry.

This is where having an overarching diagnosis of colic is not helpful. Care and attention needs to be given to families so that a true understanding of a child’s misery can be understood and addressed.

Is colic a myth? Not if you ask a family who is in throws of colic hell. It is a complete and utter nightmare of a reality. A family with a colicky baby will feel overwhelmed, helpless, distressed and frustrated. Time should be spent with families to provide them with an understanding of their baby and be given coping mechanisms so that families are not facing this alone. Being told that your baby will grow out of it is not helpful. Twelve weeks is a very long time when you are faced with an inconsolable baby. For some those colic symptoms will not disappear at twelve weeks and then questions begin to be asked. Although do you really want to be waiting for that magic three month mark to pass to be taken seriously?

Colic is a reality but I think we should stop using ‘colic’ as some sort of sticking plaster. It doesn’t help anybody, least of all the miserable baby.

Let’s find the root cause of your baby’s colic together.

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