The Colic Conspiracy

If you type “What is colic?” into Google, as many people will, you get this:

colic

ˈkɒlɪk/
noun
 
  1. severe pain in the abdomen caused by wind or obstruction in the intestines and suffered especially by babies.

     

If you look it up in Collins dictionary or online here you get this:

 

colic (ˈkɒlɪk )

noun

  1. a condition characterized by acute spasmodic abdominal pain, esp that caused by inflammation, distention, etc, of the gastrointestinal tract
 

Having looked at this you would assume that if a baby has been diagnosed with colic, that it is to do with trapped wind and abdominal pain.

Wrong!

Are you shocked? I was!

That can’t be possible I thought, so I took to the Internet and found the following from the NHS:

“Colic is the medical term for excessive, frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy and well fed. It is a common yet poorly understood condition, affecting up to one in five babies….. The cause or causes of colic are unknown, but a number of theories have been suggested. These include indigestion, trapped wind or a temporary gut sensitivity to certain proteins and sugars found in breast milk and formula milk. However, there is currently little solid evidence to support these theories. Colic occurs equally in boys and girls, and in babies who are breastfed or bottle-fed”

Further searching shows colic could be related to any of the following:

  • Over stimulation
  • Over tiredness
  • Cows milk protein allergy and/or lactose intolerance
  • Constipation
  • Tongue tie
  • Parental anxiety/stress or PND
  • Birth trauma
  • Food intolerance’s passed through mothers milk
  • Strict enforcement of routines
  • Separation from parents
  • Trapped Wind
  • Plus many more…

There are studies that suggest colic is caused by unresponsive parenting practices and whilst I don’t doubt that parenting practices have a massively important effect on babies, it would be wrong to assume that a baby who has colic, has so because of less responsive or affectionate parent(s).

So how do you diagnose colic or more specifically infantile colic?

The most common criteria used in medical circles is the Wessel Criteria. Dr Morris Wessel came up with his definition in the 1970s, which defined a colicky infant as a child who cried for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week, for over three weeks. His definition was not considered scientific, but has stuck. It is often referred to as “the rule of threes” and these rules collectively as the Wessel Criteria.

So, colic is a term that is used to define a baby that cries, a lot and no one knows why. There appears to be no singular cause, which means no singular treatment. In fact, it is not actually known if the crying is because they are in pain. Compounding this, many of the signs believed to indicate pain are simply common signs of a distressed baby who has cried a lot (drawing in of arms and legs, a firm/hard stomach). If the cause cannot be isolated, how can you even begin to treat colic?

I see anti-colic bottles, anti-colic teats, anti-colic diets, colic drops and more. But how can you treat something that isn’t, it isn’t a specific disease or disorder. In short, you can’t. This is why I used the term conspiracy, many of the anti-colic aids are targeting a singular, specific cause, mostly trapped wind. But as we now know, trapped wind does not equal colic.

Many remedies contain Simethicone (AKA ‘Activated Dimethicone’) as the active ingredient (a mix of silicone oil and silica gel), with the theory being that it lowers surface tension, causes bubbles to coalesce and makes it easier for gases to dissolve in liquid, thus easing the passage of painful trapped wind. It is found in many of the market leaders “colic drops” such as Dentinox and Infacol (more on Infacol here). Research has shown Simethicone used to treat colic to be no more effective than a placebo! Probiotic remedies have also been shown to be ineffective, but I cannot find the study for the life of me, so will say no more on that subject.

Infantile colic as a definition is wide ranging and non specific, it is bandied about and highly misunderstood. Unfortunately it has become deeply engrained in society, through several generations, to be synonymous with a windy baby and the anti-colic products marketed, merely perpetuate that assumption.

Colic effects as many as 1 in 6 babies and usually peaks at around 6 weeks and subsides rapidly by 12 weeks old. Many appear to suffer the worst in the evenings between 1700 and 2200.

What to do if your child has colic?

Try to narrow down the cause, here are a few suggestions that may help:

  • Visit a lactation consultant/breastfeeding councillor to check for tongue tie, even if bottle feeding.
  • If breastfeeding, assess your diet. Certain foods could cause a reaction in your little one.
  • If your birth was particularly short or long, or if the baby was delivered by c-section, ventouse or forceps; Consider visiting a chiropractor or cranial osteopath.
  • Read up on the Fourth Trimester, you could start here.
  • Wait it out. Get as much support as you can, they will outgrow the colicky stage, remember, however bad it may become, “This Too Shall Pass”.

-J

 

Truth vs. Negativity

When browsing through parent forums and Facebook group pages I am shocked by the amount of posts stating how unsupportive and negative people are. There are a lot of requests to post positive comments and not negative view points. The general consensus seems to be ‘If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all!’

There are people who shoot from the hip and say the first thing that comes into their minds, no matter how hurtful it might come across. This is not nice to see and I certainly do not condone attacking other mums just because they wish to bring their children up a certain way, whether you agree with it or not.

However, this is generally a minority, nowhere near the numbers that are implied. The comments that are labelled as ‘negative’ mainly occur in posts regarding the most controversial subjects, breast vs bottle, sleep training, smacking etc. The more I read, I realise the majority of people are just speaking their minds.

I’ve lost count of the number of conversations I’ve seen and heard that end in parents laying into each other because parent ‘A’ posted or said something that went against what parent ‘B’ advised.

So many times comments are made about supporting each other, requests to not challenge each others choices and to not disagree. These requests are not realistic, nor conducive to what the forums stand for. If someone asks for advice, surely everyone is entitled to their say. Just because someone doesn’t agree with your view or is giving an opinion you may not like, it doesn’t make their opinion negative. It’s only negative if it is in no way constructive, therefore even constructive criticism is relevant to the conversation.

Instead of asking everyone to agree, why can’t we be open to discuss our choices, the reasons behind them and be open to have those choices questioned in an adult manner. In opening ourselves up in this way we can learn to stay objective and critical of our own parenting choices. Maybe there’s a consequence you hadn’t thought about or an angle you hadn’t looked at. Looking at our choices in another light, someone else’s light, may help us improve on our parenting and lead us down a path we never knew existed or had contemplated before. On the other hand, it might cement our belief in our choices and allow us to rationalise with another parent who is struggling to see our point of view.

These forums and Facebook groups are there for parents to ask for and be offered advice, they are meant to help people. It’s sad that because of a few tactless people hiding behind a user name and keyboard we are all seen as judgemental, hurtful, know it all busy bodies!

A harsh truth for many parents is they are unable to stand firm in their choices with their head held high, and instead feel guilt for their behaviour and choices. Is it fair to blame that feeling of guilt on the person questioning their choices? Offence can only be taken, not given. If we are not willing to be open and honest with ourselves about our choices, how do we develop and improve ourselves? Being able to acknowledge the consequences of our actions, learn from any mistakes made and move forward is a part of life and running away from that is impossible.

We need to accept that no matter how hard we try, we will fail our children at some point or another, to act like we have not or will not is to live in denial of being human. To have our flaws pointed out by others can hurt, but if we make our decisions based on evidence, instinct and what we feel is best for our child at the time, with the available information, then why should it matter what someone else says?

On the other hand, to plough through with a stubborn and thick headed attitude only serves to be harmful to not only your children, but to other parents. For example, advising a mother to do something that you’ve not looked at objectively, i.e. backed up by nothing more than “I did this with my child and she’s fine!”, is irresponsible and not helpful.  When giving out or taking advice I always look for the evidence behind the decisions, if there isn’t any then I’m wary of what has been suggested. However, with a balance of opinions we all stand a chance at improving the way we raise our children.

Wouldn’t it be better if we accept that we’re not always going to agree, learn to be judgemental of ourselves before someone else is and remain objective about our choices and others opinions? If everyone took a step back and a deep breath first, rather than lashing out in a defensive manner without a seconds thought, we could have a constructive conversation, beneficial to all parties, without being destructive to each other.

-B

A Helpful Question

There are short exchanges and small remarks that can leave you feeling a little silly. The following exchange did just that and occurred at the beginning of our antenatal class:

“Do you both believe your/partners body is capable of making and growing a baby?”

Without hesitation we both answered “Yes” just as we think most people would.

It was then remarked:

“Then why would you think that a body that is capable of such a feat, would not be perfectly capable of giving birth to that same baby!”

It illustrated how irrational some of our fears really were. In that one little exchange a confidence and calmness was instilled, that stayed with us throughout. When we were worried or nervous for no apparent reason one of us would ask the other that question and found it comforting.

When you are feeling worried or anxious about your impending birth try asking yourself that same question and hopefully it will help to dispel those irrational fears many of us have.

-J

Sweet Dreams

The first night after our baby’s birth we went to bed and I laid him in the crib in our bedroom, got into bed and stared at him. After a while my husband looked at me and said “It feels so unnatural to have him so far away from us, he has been surrounded by you for 9 months”. In that moment my heart leapt into my throat, thank goodness he had said it, that was my feeling exactly! Everything in me since I had laid him down wanted to pick him back up and be with him. For the next hour or two we sat in bed, me sobbing while holding our baby because I couldn’t bare to be away from him, yet was so frightened of falling asleep with him.

My husband did all he could looking up information and evidence on bed sharing, it’s dangers and how to safely bed share. Eventually we made some quick changes to our sleeping arrangements and had done enough to calm my nerves about sleeping with our son. That night we all got some sleep and the next day we made it so the crib was open and attached to our bed, giving our son his own space and me a little more peace of mind but keeping that all important closeness.

In the weeks and months that have followed our little one has slept by my side every night. This has led me to wonder how many others have found themselves in similar situations?

In the ‘after care’ talk we received at our local hospital we were informed of the safety and dangers of swaddling, baby sleeping on their back/side/tummy and where to position baby in their crib/cot; but nothing was mentioned on the subject of bed sharing. It seems bed sharing in general, isn’t widely spoken about, but why? Is it because it’s not common practice, or is it generally not accepted in society as a safe practice?

Whichever it is, I’m sure there is something else more common and potentially dangerous than bed sharing amongst new parents. Those few seconds you closed your eyes, only to be jolted awake when you felt your body soften a bit too much as you started to fall asleep. As much as we don’t like to admit it, it’s probably inevitable for most, if not all of us. I for one was shocked when I found myself in the wee hours of the morning holding our son and falling asleep standing up!

I’m not ashamed to admit that on more than one occasion I had got out of bed with him and experienced that same feeling. Standing or sitting, it doesn’t matter, when you’re that tired there really is nothing you can do to avoid it, or is there?

If we accept that many parents find themselves in a similar sleep deprived scenario, why do we not do more to educate parents on all safe sleeping arrangements, including bed sharing?

It wouldn’t surprise me if many parents found themselves in situations where they were so exhausted they bought baby into bed on the spur of the moment, just so they could go back to sleep. Unfortunately this is where bed sharing gets a bad reputation, and I feel wrongly so.

If bed sharing is done correctly and the sleeping area has been prepared for bed sharing, then there is a lot less risk to baby then you might think. When you consider that the possible alternatives we find ourselves in; last minute bed sharing or accidentally falling asleep while sitting on the sofa, armchair or worse, standing up; surely a bit of education on the subject of how to safely bed share would be beneficial to a lot of parents?

So if you’re thinking about your sleeping arrangements, don’t be quick to rule out bed sharing. Yes there will be people who will say it’s “too risky” for their liking, but don’t take their or my word for it. Do your own research and come to your own conclusions, you might find the evidence surprises you.

Whatever your decision and whatever your sleeping arrangements, I wish you all a safe and peaceful sleep.

Sweet dreams

-B

The following is a leaflet provided by La Leche League and Pinter & Martin outlining the 7 smart steps to safer bedsharing and is available to download in PDF from here

Safe_Sleep_7_leaflet-page-001

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Adrenaline: Bad For Labour? Huh!

One of the things that amazed us most was learning about the negative effects adrenaline can have on labour. The pre-conceived idea of labour that most people have is a labour full of adrenaline. But this is just wrong! A calm, relaxed labour is far more beneficial and rewarding for all parties involved. A calm, quiet, drama-less labour makes for bad TV. So most, if not all labours seen on TV are loud, frenzied and drama fuelled. All this does is perpetuate the stereotype of a dramatic labour.

We have learnt many things along our way and this was probably the most enlightening of them all. It came as a shock and completely changed our approach to labour. Luckily for us, we found this out at the beginning of the second trimester; whilst we were still deciding and had no set birth plan or mindset.

When a woman goes into labour her body releases oxytocin (known as the love hormone or cuddle chemical) and that in turn releases pain relieving endorphins (morphine like in nature; but far, far more powerful, they attach to same brain receptors as morphine and codeine). It’s these two things that make labour bearable and manageable for the mother. When adrenaline is involved it directly counters the effects of oxytocin and in turn the endorphin release, resulting in reduced pain relief.

If there is too much adrenaline, it can actually stop labour and even reverse the process. This is an inbuilt system; the emergency response, the mothers instinct is to protect her child and to feel as safe and secure as possible. If she feels stressed or insecure, however minor, it will have negative effects on the progression of labour.

However, it isn’t completely bad! The negative aspects are mainly referring to the ‘up stage’ of labour or the ‘first stage’ of labour, as this is the stage that consists of the greatest proportion of time in the whole process. However, once into the second stage of labour (generally the last hour or so) there is a fine balance between oxytocin and adrenaline. Oxytocin and the other cartenocenides enable pain relief, but no endurance. This is where adrenalin kicks in, right when it’s getting too much, it slows oxytocins effect down, gives the mother a boost in energy, then backs off and the cycle starts again. This balance is completely different for every woman. Every woman will have different limits and abilities and the balance will be tuned perfectly for them, if left to do what it does best.

If all but the last hour or so of labour is adrenaline free, a woman can have access to all the pain relief she could ever need, far more potent than any available drug, just waiting for the taking.

 

– J

 

Be In Awe Of Yourself!

How many women go into labour unsure of what to expect? – Now I’m not talking about the ‘pain’ of labour, a contraction is a strange sensation and can be as individual as the person experiencing it – But in terms of what a contraction is, what it is doing and how it is aiding your body to birth your baby, how many women can honestly say they know these things?

It’s thanks to our antenatal teacher and chosen birthing method that we were taught almost everything there is to know about birth and what to expect when the day finally came. We took the time to speak about anything and everything birth related, what we wanted/did not want, our hopes and fears, the ‘what if’s?!’

Throughout my labour, there we’re no nasty surprises, no real wonderings of ‘what is happening to my body?!’.

I cannot help but wonder if many women have these thoughts during labour and are scared of how their bodies feel. It wouldn’t surprise me if this leads many women to ask for or agree to pain relief/intervention because they feel out of control and are unsure of what is happening and if what they’re feeling is ‘normal’.

The mechanics of birth, when understood, are so profoundly beautiful that I challenge women not be be in awe of themselves and their body’s ability to create life.

To me, knowledge was power and I was in control, not of my body, but of my mind. I need not control my body, it knows what to do, however the mind is powerful and can cause havoc if not aware and informed.

-B

Support? Or…

Having just read this article;
I feel inclined to agree, I have witnessed friends and family members react to my partner in the exact same manner and I find it shocking. When we achieve, we feel proud and we want to share. When we fail, we desire compassion and understanding. When we learn something new, often the inner child wants to tell everybody, especially those closest to us. This had never really been an issue, until we became pregnant! 

We quickly learnt that the further we were from the process experienced by the individual, the more we were lambasted. It varied in amplitude, but stung and hurt no differently. 

We entered pregnancy thinking we would go to a midwife led unit, have drugs and use anything that sped the whole process up. However, within 1 month we realised how wrong we were and by 4 months had more or less decided that we wanted to be at home, in water and in a non pressured environment: Thus allowing everything to proceed as naturally as possible, in a time that suited both the mother and the child, no rushing, no drugs and no hospital. 

We came to these decisions slowly, individually and gradually. As we learnt and our knowledge gained; we wanted to share with family, expecting similar “WOWS” to our own! They very rarely came and we were often faced with accusing looks or verbal, aggressive defensiveness of their own decisions. We have always been fairly pragmatic in our approach to decision making and felt our decisions were sound, unbiased, informed and most importantly, perfect for us. Not them! But many conversations quickly became exactly that, all about them.

It’s not that we weren’t interested in their experiences, quite the contrary, we wanted to know everything, the good, the bad and the ugly. It was incredibly important to us, there could be similarities and learning about their experiences we could better prepare ourselves. We rarely found out very much, the slightest question or deviation from their perceived norm, descended into a defensive rant. 

We had hoped that once the birth had come and gone things would lessen and ease off. In bringing up our new bundle of joy we had hoped to gain knowledge, share new findings and receive joy and support from our friends and family. Especially as all the work and effort we put into achieving a calm birth, at home, in water, with no pain relief, paid off. Everything we shared that had been received badly was proved to not be nonsense and could work. In some instances, we got just that. In others, not at all.

Our new found thirst for knowledge transcended from pregnancy and into the land of babies! This proved to be even more fraught with potential land mines, waiting to explode at a moments notice. We have found our social and larger family dynamic change as a consequence, as we become ever closer to those willing to share and discuss without judgement, dismissiveness or defensiveness and shy away and distance ourselves from those who show just that. The sad truth is that the latter are some of the closest and dearest and cannot see that all we want to do is share our own experiences, gain knowledge from theirs and provide each other with very much needed support.

The following is from the same article that sparked this post and explains it succinctly:

“We are at a stage where people – notably women and mothers – seem unable to get beyond themselves when talking to someone else about their experience.  I honestly believe that many of us carry a lot of emotional baggage about our choices and our experiences that this pops up when we are encountering someone else’s.  For some, the guilt of a choice made makes them defensive and seeing attack around every corner.  For some, the sadness of what they missed means they read judgement into all comments.  For some, even the happiness of their own experience colours how they respond to another’s situation, particularly a sad one.  Yet it isn’t about you.  It’s about the person who’s talking and sharing and when we are so focused on ourselves, we are failing miserably at the one thing that we give a lot of lip service to these days: Support.”

-J