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Colic is a common problem in infants in which the baby is healthy but has periods of inconsolable crying, apparently caused by abdominal pain. Colic usually develops within a few weeks of birth and disappears by the baby’s fourth month.
Colic may cause infants, typically less than four months old, to cry inconsolably. The attacks usually occur in the late afternoon and evening, sometimes lasting for hours. During a colicky period, babies may bring their knees up, clench their fists, grimace, hold their breath, and generally be more active.
All infants, particularly those with colic, need to be fed on demand and not by a specific clock schedule. Often a baby’s cry is triggered by discomfort caused by low blood sugar. Unlike adults, infants do not have a carefully regulated ability to maintain healthy blood sugar levels in the absence of food. This physiological shortcoming of infants can be solved only by feeding on demand.
In one trial, parents were taught not to let babies cry unnecessarily but rather to attempt feeding right away in response to the infant’s cry.1 If that failed, parents were taught to try to respond to the cry in other ways, such as holding the infant or providing the opportunity to sleep. These parents were also given the solid medical advice that overfeeding is never caused by feeding on demand nor will the baby be “spoiled” by such an approach. As a result of this intervention, colic was dramatically (and statistically significantly) reduced, compared with a group of mothers given different instructions.
The symptoms of colic may be linked to mild biomechanical disturbances of the spinal joints and may respond to manipulation. A large, preliminary study of infants treated by chiropractic manipulation for colic reported marked improvement, often after one treatment.2 This echoed an earlier study in which questionnaires sent to parents of 132 infants under chiropractic care revealed that 91% of the respondents observed improvement in their babies’ symptoms after two to three manipulations.3 In a controlled trial, infants were treated daily for two weeks either with a placebo medication or with a series of three to five treatments using gentle “fingertip” spinal manipulations.4 Those treated with manipulation experienced a 67% reduction in daily hours of colic, compared with only a 38% reduction in infants on medication.
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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2017.