Inside a Colic Clinic

Advice From The Colic Docs, p.5

The Infant Behavior, Cry and Sleep Clinic is the only place in the U.S. that treats colic exclusively and offers family-based treatment. For families who don't live near the Providence center, clinic director Barry Lester, Ph.D., offers the following strategies for identifying and coping with excessive crying, with the help of your child's pediatrician.

  • Keep a cry diary. For every 15 minutes of your baby's day and night, record whether she's fussing, crying, sleeping, eating, or awake. At the end of a week, highlight the five behaviors in different colors for a visual of how distressed your child actually is, when her good moments occur, and when she's most likely to be upset. This will help your child's doctors determine whether your baby suffers from colic.
  • Assess whether your baby has other colic symptoms. Does he have sudden crying episodes? Is his cry piercing? Does he react by clenching his hands or fists, arching his back, drawing up his knees, or holding his breath? Is he unable to be calmed? These are signs that your baby's crying may be outside the normal range and he may be in pain, Dr. Lester says.

  • Talk to your baby's doctor about potential feeding issues, including gastroesophageal reflux (GER) or intolerance to cow's-milk protein, and discuss a possible treatment like Zantac or another pediatric acid inhibitor, a switch to hypoallergenic formula, or changes to your diet if you're nursing. It may be worth asking for a referral to see a pediatric gastroenterologist, who can definitively diagnose GER or allergies. If your child has GER, try holding her upright for 20 to 30 minutes after feeding, using a wedge pillow, or propping up her crib mattress to minimize reflux. Consult with your child's pediatrician for the safest ways to accomplish this.
  • Stick to firm, consistent bedtime and nap routines. Put your child to sleep in the same place every time, make nighttime feedings all business, establish a soothing routine, and put the baby down to sleep drowsy but awake when possible.
  • Don't be afraid to take a break. Once the baby's physical needs are met, it's okay to leave her alone to cry for five to 10 minutes. This helps her develop self-soothing techniques.
  • Remember that the best kind of colic care treats parents' needs too. Leave your baby with a trusted caregiver and take time to talk with friends or professionals about what you're going through. The more parents of colicky babies take action, the less helpless they feel, Dr. Lester says.

To share your experience in coping with colic, visit our message board.

Tracy Mayor lives outside Boston with her husband and their two sons. She's written for Salon, The Boston Globe Magazine, and Brain, Child.

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