Your Colicky Baby May Not Have Colic

Only 5 to 20 percent of newborns and their parents endure infantile colic, says pediatrician Ari Brown, AAP spokesperson and author of the Expecting 411 book series. But many more have colicky babies, if the talk among new moms at my mama-baby postnatal Yoga Bonding classes is any indication. That’s because several conditions look a lot like colic, making treatment tricky to sort out. Reflux, milk protein allergies, and good ol’ fussiness are all possible culprits for babies who cry for hours on end, for weeks and weeks. And weeks. {breathe, mama!}

To get a better sense of colic vs. colicky, I checked in with a few moms who’ve been through it, and all the stories came back “colicky.” (Did I mention how deeply grateful I am not to have my own story like this?! And how much love and support I wish for the dear moms who do?). Here are a few my-baby-was-colicky stories. Sensitivity to milk protein dominates the explanations for why little ones acted as though they had colic.

Emma Laing says it was her lactation consultant who suggested a “dairy intolerance was leading to the constant pain.” Although changing her diet and the way she nursed was a hardship, Emma says she wouldn’t do anything differently, even if she could magically get a do-over: “Most importantly, I am so thankful that I did not give up nursing.” It would have been a greater sacrifice, she explains, to miss out on the special bond that came from breastfeeding her children (yep, both her babies were colicky!).

For Rebecca Marshall, dietary changes also helped her son feel better. Rebecca’s pediatrician wasn’t definitive about colic as a diagnosis; it was sort of lumped in with a sense that reflux could be to blame, too, she says. “Gripe water didn’t work, Mylicon didn’t work. I drank chamomile tea and catnip and oatstraw and aloe vera. I even tried homeopathics. The only thing that made it a little better was taking food out of my diet, and it was a very long list before we got some relief.” Now that a few years have gone by, Rebecca knows exactly what was going on during those endless colicky nights: Her nearly-4-year-old son has a handful of potent food allergies.

Some mamas find that dairy intolerance is a family thing. “I was terribly colicky as a baby, and not only did my mom not know about the lactose connection, but she actually drank a glass of milk each time she nursed me, per her doctor’s recommendation,” says Anne Bachhuber, whose own daughter suffered a similar colicky fate. Thankfully, once Anne stopped eating dairy, her daughter’s symptoms disappeared.

How about you, dear mama? What colic or colicky stresses have you endured? Have you purged your diet, or sipped your share of herbal teas? We’d love for you to share your advice for moms who are coping with a colicky kiddo.

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