Urban Fathers' Liberation Front

Confused dads working out the city

That screaming. That’ll be colic.

on June 8, 2012

It’s surprising how much of the early days of fatherhood has evaded me, or left me, in the three years since Toots was born.  It seems that the days go by, and there’s a gradual shift  in her as she grows and learns and achieves ever more, and a shift in the way in which I am comfortable with her growth and her development into a fully functioning person – albeit, one who remains a toddler.

I mention this because I would have thought that having a second child, now around the ten week mark, would remind me of having a baby the first time.  However, as it happens, it still is the case that the early days of fatherhood either evade me, or have left me, and I find it really hard to remember how awkward it was in those early weeks.  It may be that they were so awful that my brain has erased the memory almost entirely, but it is more likely that it was such a blur of late nights, screaming and adjusting to a totally different family regime that individual events are difficult to pick out of the bones.

Toots was better than most, or so other parents tell me (though I remain convinced that nurture has a significant impact one way or another on nature), but it seems to me that Bub, our number 2, is having more problems than number 1 – though the lack of any clear evidence from memory is hampering any objective comparison.

At the moment, we do appear to be having trouble with colic.  Bub has, rather suddenly, decided that the evenings are just not the time to be sleeping and has taken, instead, to screaming for long periods (five hours is not uncommon), resisting sleep despite being tired and looking for all the world like he has a sore tum.  For the remainder of the day, he can sleep, he feeds well, he’s calm and happy and he poops like a proper kid.  All the reading we have done to try and resolve the problem – reading which has come after the soothing, the shushing, the rocking, the changing of clothes, the cooling, the warming, the swaddling, the rubbing, the bouncing and the feeding, all of which has had no effect on the screaming – suggests colic.

I have to confess, as a rather dim and slow witted parent, I thought colic referred to an actual condition with a cause, symptoms and a cure.  It appears, however, to have none of these things, although medical types seem to want to attribute stuff into each of those categories.  Colic, it seems to me, appears to be a posh word for uncontrollable and irrational screaming in a toddler during the evening and, it also appears, this will generally go of its own accord by month 3 or 4.  It allows a doctor, many of whom are consulted during these intense screaming periods, to say to a distressed parent that this thing has a name and, to some extent, relieve the suffering of the parent.  So at least, in this respect, I am a little reassured that what Bub is suffering is normal enough, and that it should resolve itself in time.

However, I was also alarmed to read that colic is a significant cause of marital stress and relationship breakdown, a contributor to sudden infant death syndrome and to child abuses, the latter two coming from the parents’ distress in having to deal with the condition.  I am calm enough, I think, to deal with this little episode in Bub’s short life so far, and put the current difficulties down to colic, but I can really understand the problems that it causes and the rises in certain circumstances that colic brings.  And it needs a wider discussion and recognition, I shouldn’t wonder.


3 responses to “That screaming. That’ll be colic.

  1. papaleach says:

    At the risk of another indignant slapping hotly administered by my daughter, I suggest the following as worth considering:
    Colic is a condition in which infants experience severe abdominal pain, produce a chronic, high-pitched scream, and exhibit a tendency toward excessive spitting up. The condition makes for both a miserable child and miserable parents, and can result in malnutrition.
    While some people dismiss colic as the behaviour of a “difficult child,” substantial evidence suggests that it may be a symptom of allergy to cow’s milk,93 and simply removing cow’s milk and associated products from both the child’s and parents’ diets can produce the docile infant parents hoped” Infants may be exposed to the offending bovine proteins through cow’s milk-based formula or through breast milk containing cows-milk proteins originating in the mothers diet.
    Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine showed that when a mother consumes even small amounts of cow’s milk, bovine pro-teins still manage to get absorbed by her intestine and enter her breast milk, where they will be passed to her breastfeeding infant. For example, mothers of colicky children have significantly higher concentrations of cows-milk protein in their breast milk when sampled.95 So even if the child is not fed a cow’s-milk formula, if the infant’s mother continues to drink cow’s milk and eat dairy products herself and breastfeeds her infant, the colic induced by the cow’s milk will not be remedied.96
    In Anne Lamott’s bestselling book Operating Instructions, she described how her newborn was severely colicky, and how this drove her to the brink of insanity. Eventually a friend advised her to stop eating ice cream and other dairy products. She did so, and shortly thereafter, her baby returned to a more docile state. Some days later, the author forgot and resumed her regular diet containing cow’s milk, only for her son Sam to resume his fit¬ful and screaming state.97
    In a study reported in the European Journal of Pediatrics, children with recurrent vomiting — a frequent symptom in colic — were not responding to conventional therapy. The researchers found that “a striking improve-ment occurred” within 24 hours of adopting a diet free of cows milk”98
    In a study of nineteen breastfed infants not directly consuming cow’s milk, yet still colicky, 68 percent were cured once cow’s milk was elimi¬nated from the mother’s diet.99 In another study reported in Lancet, colic disappeared from thirteen of eighteen breastfeeding children once their mothers were taken off cow’s milk.100
    In a study of sixty-six breastfeeding infants with colic, cow’s milk was removed from the mothers and infants diet, and in more than half of the group the colic disappeared entirely.101 Another study tested twenty-seven infants with severe colic, some crying up to five-and-a-half hours a day.102 When the infants were given a formula free of cows milk, symptoms disap-peared in twenty-four of the infants.
    While cow’s milk has been established as a common cause of colic in infants, it is important to note that it is not the only potential culprit. Some infants are extremely sensitive and will react to other food elements that end up in mothers milk, including garlic, legumes (beans), broccoli, and even soy. In cases where colic is not cured by the elimination of cows milk, these and other foods in the mothers diet should be considered.

    95 Clyne, P. S., et al., “Human breast milk contains bovine IgG: Relationship
    to colic?” Pediatrics 87 (1991):439-44.

    96 Yoichi, F. et al., “Consumption of cow milk and egg by lactating women
    and the presence of B-lactoglobulin and ovalbumin in breast milk,”
    American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 65 (1997):30-35; McClelland, D.B.
    L., et al., “Antibodies to cow’s milk proteins in human colostrum,” Lancet
    2 (1976):1251-52; Clyne, P.S., et al., “Human breast milk contains bovine IgG: Relationship to infant colic?” Pediatrics 87 (1991):359-66.

    97 Lamott, Anne, Operating Instruction: A Journal of My Son’s First Year
    (New York: Ballantine, 1994).

    98 Forget, P., et al., “Cow’s milk protein allergy and gastro-oesophageal
    reflux,” European Journal of Pediatrics 144 (1985):298-300.

    99 Jakobsson, I., et al., “Cow’s milk as a cause of infantile colic in breast-fed
    infants,” Lancet 2 (1978):437-39.

    100 Ibid.

    101 Jakobsson, I., et al., “Cow’s milk proteins cause infantile colic in
    breast-fed infants: a double-blind crossover study,” Pediatrics 71

    102 Lothe, L., et al., “Cow’s milk formula as a cause of infantile colic: a
    double-blind study,” Pediatrics 70 (1982):7-10.

    ‘Whitewash’ by Dr Joseph Keon. ISBN 978-0-86571-676-6 pp140-142

  2. bethsaysboo says:

    We were aware of that as one possible problem and solution. However, another solution is swaddling and distraction, which is working well. Last night he slept straight away, and long, simply by filling the room with white noise. No diet change needed yet!

  3. papaleach says:

    Is he in a Gitmo orange jumpsuit?!

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