Friday, March 25, 2005

Dealing with colic

Experts estimate that approximately one in four healthy, new babies has colic. Yet, they don't really know what colic is. How can they diagnose something that they don't fully understand?

Colic is the term used to describe uncontrollable crying that has no specific cause in babies between 2 and 12 weeks of age. If the crying happens several times a week and lasts for at least an hour each time, it is usually diagnosed as colic. Current theories on colic ascribe it to immature nervous systems or digestive systems.

Doctors assure parents that babies all outgrow colic. And, they do. However, in the meantime, dealing with a colicky baby can be nerve-wracking, stressful, saddening and frustrating. The most difficult thing for new parents is that their baby seems unhappy and there seems to be nothing they can do to soothe her. In addition, the non-stop sound of shrieking is sure to wear on the nerves of any sleep-deprived person.

Since doctors can't get rid of colic and the only way to cure it is to live through it, consider the following strategies for coping with a colicky baby:

- Constant motion: For some reason, motion often soothes colicky babies. Try the stroller, the vibrating bouncer, the swing and the rocking chair. Go for a drive in the car. Walk back and forth, bounce and remind yourself in the middle of the night that all that exercise is burning off the baby weight at a record pace. Some babies respond well to crib vibrators; make sure the unit is heavy-duty enough to really vibrate the mattress.

- White noise: Some babies respond favorably to soothing music or white noise. You don't have to invest in a white noise generator. Try a window fan (not aimed directly at the baby), letting water run or a CD of ambient sounds.

- Get help: Since dealing with colic can be really grueling, make sure you get some help. Try to arrange schedules so that both parents can take turns with the colicky baby or have a friend or family member come in to offer a little relief.

- Take a break: If the frustration of dealing with a constantly fussing baby is really getting to you and you cannot find anyone to take over for awhile, remember that it is okay to put the baby in a safe place such as her crib for a few minutes, close the door and walk out. Take a long cool drink. Use the bathroom. Take some deep breaths. You will be much better equipped to go back and comfort your unhappy baby and she will be none the worse for the wear.

In some cases, babies with acid reflux or other digestive disorders exhibit symptoms of colic, so make sure if you believe your baby is colicky that you consult with your doctor to rule out any other causes of her distress.

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