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Growing Healthy Kids: Calming the Cry of Colic

Written by Jen Allbritton, CN   
Monday, 01 June 2009 00:00
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The elusive infant condition called colic has perplexed parents and healthcare professionals alike for many years. The seemingly endless crying spells and sleep loss lead to stress and anxiety for all. Each baby is unique and is affected by a variety of factors, and each responds in his or her own way. Nevertheless, current research and the principles set forth by Weston A. Price give parents the best chance of maximizing their wee one’s happiness and preventing excessive hair-curling scream sessions.

Colic: What We Know

Crying is baby communication and has many possible drivers; crying babies could be hungry, cold, wet, understimulated, overstimulated, bored, in pain, sick, moody, or anything else under the sun. It often takes some trial and error to figure out what will soothe a baby. When crying becomes loud and persistent, when soothing efforts are fruitless, and when potential physical conditions have been ruled out, the doctor will generally give a diagnosis of colic—which means, “We have no idea why your baby will not stop crying!” How frustrating!

The average infant cries between two and three hours a day. The commonly accepted clinical definition of colic is the “Rule of Three.” An infant that is well-fed and otherwise healthy is colicky if it cries for more than three hours per day, more than three days per week, for more than three weeks. However, when a baby is in the throes of a high-pitched crying fit, five minutes can feel like three hours. Some people are just better able to tolerate the noise and feelings of helplessness than others. This is what makes the term colic, or even excessive crying, so subjective. A Brazilian study found that as many as 80 percent of mothers believed their infants had colic; however, using the definition above, only 16.3 percent actually had the condition. Thus, as with many things, “excessive crying” really is in the eye—or ear—of the beholder.

There are enough gimmicky “colic cure” sales pitches to make your wallet burst into more tears than your child. But ultimately, science doesn’t know much about colic. Nevertheless, there are a number of contributing factors that, if remedied, may improve the situation. These issues may or may not be directly involved in the cause of colic, but they are all things that should be evaluated by every parent. It all fits into the realm of learning about your unique bundle of joy and encouraging his or her best possible health.

Neuro-Development: The Strongest Theory to Date

Neuro-development is one of the most accepted ideas surrounding colic. The term “brain maturity” sounds sophisticated, but the concept is simple. It has been observed that babies with colic are more easily overstimulated than noncolicky babies. Once they are in a crying episode, it is challenging for them to return to a normal mental state.

This is where the idea of immaturity comes into play. These babies essentially don’t have the brain maturity to adequately transition out of an uncomfortable state of crying once it has begun.

Fortunately for these babies and their parents, an infant’s ability to come out of these uncomfortable states gets better with age. This is confirmed by the fact that colic or excessive crying usually subsides by four months of age. Another observation that supports this theory is the fact that many colicky babies are over-stimulated by “normal” soothing techniques, including rocking and singing. They tend to do better with white noise, darkness, and swaddling —but not always. Remember, each baby is different, and reading your baby’s signals is key to a solution.

Weston A. Price Knew All Along

Ultimately, support of brain development and growth are fundamental in preventing and calming the cries of colic. Weston A. Price’s Wise Traditions approach to nutrition provides the best basis to achieve these goals. The Wise Traditions dietary principles center on supplying the body with liberal amounts of the nutrients that support nervous system health, including cod liver oil, organ meats, and traditional fats. Parents all over the world can attest to the value of adhering to a Wise Traditions diet before conception, as well as throughout pregnancy and lactation. A traditional diet high in vitamins A and D (seafood, cod liver oil, organ meats, egg yolks, and butterfat from grass-fed animals), bone broths, and properly prepared whole foods allows children to reach their maximum genetic potential. Children born to parents who follow Wise Traditions practices tend to have freedom from allergies and illness, good immune systems, and happy, calm dispositions. It has been seen time and time again that these principles support neural function as well as encourage a happy demeanor in infants and children.