Help! My Baby has Colic!

Colic. The five-letter word that makes every new mother or father tremble. My first born, Oli, had it and those first three months were tortuous for all of us to say the least. Coupled with adjusting to a baby for the first time, raging hormones, and a lack of sleep, colic thrown into the mix is a whole other ball game – ask any Momma who’s battled this. I had no idea about how a Chiropractor could assist in alleviating the symptoms, and didn’t even have a paediatrician in the town we lived in – that meant a 4 and half hour trip to Johannesburg. So, we suffered in silence (okay, not exactly silence because the wails from both Oli and I were probably heard throughout the town!). We tried Colief (not a cheap product!), Gripe Water on the dummy, Telament drops, you name it – all to no avail. My poor husband finally found a trick to calm the hours of panic – holding Oli mid-air (think the Lion King pose where Rafiki the Baboon shows off baby Simba). He did this, for hours on end, I kid you not, without so much as a complaint, but as soon as his poor muscle went into cramp (Dyl, not baby Oli) from holding a baby in the air for hours, he would start up again with his continuous and persistent crying. Nothing calmed him.

Second time round, we were back in the land of the living, and my friend Jax told me about a ‘magic’ man dubbed ‘The Baby Whisperer’ at my baby shower for Sophie. She in no uncertain terms instructed me to visit this Chiropractor after she was born and that assured me, the journey through the new-born colicky phase would be a breeze, and that’s exactly what I did just as the early evening squawks started. I took Soph for 5 or 6 sessions in total, and it literally gave me back a ‘new’ and happy baby. I think I watched Dr Marinus’ YouTube video on Baby Burping Techniques a hundred times – new or expectant moms, do yourselves a favour and watch this now:

 

Thank you, Dr Marinus, for making those first few months blissful, instead of the traumatic experience we had with Oli, you truly are a ‘Baby Whisperer’ and I would highly recommend any new moms to look at the Chiropractic route post birth (and for the Joburg Momma’s – you can visit Dr Marinus, himself!).

Now over to the professional:

A little about Dr Marinus

Dr Michael Marinus qualified in 2004 from the University of Johannesburg with an M.Tech degree in Chiropractic. He is currently completing his Masters in Paediatric Musculoskeletal Health through the UK based Anglo European Chiropractic College. He is an active member of the South African Chiropractic Association as well as being registered in the UK as a practitioner. He is an exco member of the Gauteng Association of Infant Mental Health as well as being a founder member of Paediatric Chiropractic South Africa. He regularly attends international seminars and has had the privilege of speaking internationally on the subject of Chiropractic Paediatric Care. He is a father of 2 and has a passion for working with young families, children and babies in particular.

So, what is colic?

Colic is not something babies have, its something babies do. It’s better to think of it as a symptom instead of a disease. It’s the diagnosis you get when your baby has been thoroughly examined and the doctor finds they are healthy, well fed and thriving but yet they still have these inconsolable bouts of crying that can push them and you to your wits end. This kind of crying usually happens in the evenings and it starts up at around 2 weeks of age and then settles close to 4 – 5 months. For many years we used to explain colic by using the rule of 3’s. We said a baby who cries for 3 hours a day, for 3 days in a row for 3 weeks or more had colic. But, because of the new data we’ve been collecting over the last decade or so, we now know that its not so much about how long colic babies cry for, but more about how inconsolable they are. Colic babies don’t cry any more frequently than other babies do, but it turns out they do cry for longer and are more sensitive than other babies. Its natural that a fit and healthy baby should respond to a parents soothing touch and when they don’t it can lead to a breakdown in parent-baby communication which is the big reason why colic needs to be addressed correctly and the right support is given to parents. Whilst the research shows that only 5% of babies with excessive, uncontrollable crying can have an organic cause behind it, it is still really important to rule out a potentially dangerous cause.

What causes colic?

 It’s a tough question, because essentially we are trying to find out why a perfectly healthy baby cries so inconsolably. Remember, this is a baby who has made it through all their physical health checks with flying colours. Having said that, there are a few things we know for certain about colic babies. They have different gut hormone levels to other babies which may mean their tummies are more prone to contractions and they can be harder to pacify. They also have different microbe levels in their gut which could mean they produce more gas than other babies. However, it is generally accepted that human babies have an immature nervous system and that for some of them the transition from the womb, where their needs are met 24/7, into our modern western world is just too much for their developing nervous systems to take. Essentially, it’s a clash between what babies expect and what our culture provides.

How does Chiropractic help?

The purpose behind most manual therapies is to restore function to the muscles, bones and joints that make up the musculoskeletal system. The Chiropractic treatment of excessively crying babies doesn’t focus on fixing the ‘colic’ (because after all it’s just a symptom), but rather we look at removing any interference in the normal movement patterns resulting from tight muscles or imbalances in the spine and ligaments which might be causing tension and pain. We do this using gentle techniques which are appropriate for baby’s size and are safe for baby’s level of development. I often find that by removing these potential sources of irritation, babies start to regulate themselves more effectively. It is also important to spend time with parents explaining what is biologically appropriate for their new-born as well as giving home exercises to help get burps out, remove lower gas and help babies settle.

How many sessions are advised?

 The worldwide average is around 3 – 4 sessions for babies with musculoskeletal issues causing irritation but it really depends on what particular issues they have and how quickly they can be resolved.

 On being dubbed ‘The Baby Whisperer’

 Hahaha, I think it’s wonderful! It took me a while to get used to it, but it seems to have stuck. At the end of the day I’m passionate about working with children and young families and I’m glad that comes across to moms and dads.

 

Are C-section babies more prone to having Colic?

 There is some research that shows that babies born by vaginal delivery have more good bugs in their gut compared to C-section babies which might make them less prone to being upset. There is also a new study from Australia showing more neck issues in babies born by C-section or those having assisted births compared to natural deliveries. However, none of this research is bulletproof and new studies arrive everyday. In my experience, caesarean babies tend to, on average, have more mechanical joint and muscle issues than vaginal, unassisted, deliveries. However, this may also have to do with the reason they needed a C-section instead of the C-section itself.

Any preventative advice for whilst you’re pregnant?

 Don’t smoke, it increases levels of a hormone called motilin, we know this is an indicator for colic. Otherwise, eat well, sleep well and get some exercise.

Any correlation to milk allergies?

 According to the evidence, its very difficult to tell the difference between a milk protein allergy and reflux in babies. Cows milk protein allergy is far and away the most common allergy in infancy. If you suspect an allergy it is wise to stop in at your doc and have them assess your child properly so the correct treatment can be given.

Breastfeeding or bottle feeding?

 Statistically there is no difference between breastfed and formula fed kids when it comes to developing signs of colic. Breastfeeding is always preferable and if you’re having trouble make sure you speak with a qualified lactation consultant, breastfeeding can be tough but it shouldn’t be painful! In terms of formulas, again speak with a professional to allow them to guide you regarding the best for your baby’s individual needs.

 Is there a standard treatment plan?

 Again, it is really important to point out that there is no “colic treatment” as such. At Marinus Chiropractic we assess babies for alterations in their movement patterns and alignment and aim our therapy at correcting these. Along with this we aim to empower parents by giving them evidence-based information around the issues their child is facing, let them know what is normal and what is not and to give them home exercises to help their little ones self-regulate as well as possible.

Words of wisdom for a Mom dealing with Colic

It will pass. Only use credible sources when it comes to being informed about what is normal when it comes to upset babies. The internet and well meaning friends and family can drive you mad with advice and anecdotes about what you should do, how you should do it and why you’re doing it wrong. Trust your gut, moms are generally right when it comes to knowing that ‘something is up’ with their child.

You can find Dr Marinus at Ferndale Village Shopping Centre, Main Ave, Ferndale, Randburg, 2194. To call for appointments on 011 886 1565 or contact the practice here: marinuschiro@gmail.com and find them on Facebook here. Stay tuned for some more exciting news coming from Dr Marinus!

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