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Infant Colic: What Causes It?

Colic is somewhat of a medical mystery despite many studies and theories about it's origin and causes. You'll find that some doctors don't buy into the idea of colic while others believe that it is a very real condition that needs to be addressed by the parents and possibly even the doctors. Whatever your child's doctor may believe, you are probably sure in your mind that colic is a very real condition based on your sleepless nights and inconsolable beautiful little baby.

Colic appears to be more of a grouping of symptoms than an actual condition. The symptoms are usually crying, spasms and contractions, reflux, hiccups, moaning, groaning, pushing, and grunting with a red face and little fists. These symptoms usually seem to be associated with gas trapped in the intestinal tract, muscle spasm in the iliopsoas, spasms of the diaphragm, or spinal misalignment or spasm. For whatever reason, there appears to be a higher incidence of colic in babies that have been delivered via Cesarean. Doctors believe that babies delivered through Cesarean don't go through the normal decompression and straightening out that a baby that goes through the birth canal does, is this the true cause? We don't know for sure, but it makes sense.

15-20% of all babies will experience colic, meaning that there has to be a common element among many babies that would cause the mystery condition. It's thought to be digestion related and usually worsens in the evening hours. There are several theories as to what actually causes colic:

Development Stages
It's thought that the fast growth after a baby is born contributes to the pain of colic because the digestive functions are not fully refined. The movement of food through the intestines is said to be not quite right according to this theory, causing pain as digestion takes place. This theory is supported by the fact that babies usually outgrow colic fairly quickly.

Emotional Stress
Another idea is that it is stress that causes colic. Stress has long been associated with digestive disorders, supporting this theory. Studies suggest that first born children are more likely to have colic, so it's thought that the new mothers passes on her stresses and fear on to her baby, causing the digestive pain known as colic. Studies do seem to reflect that more confident mothers typically do not experience colic in their children.

Temperament
It seems that the more fussy or needy a baby is, the more likely he or she is to suffer from colic. Just like adults, babies have different temperaments or personalities and studies seem to suggest that the crabbier of the bunch usually suffer from colic more often than happy babies.

Diet
It's thought that lactose and food allergies cause colic in many children. What's odd is that there isn't a significant different between the number of bottle-fed and breastfed children that develop colic. What's interesting is that adding an iron-fortified formula to many formula infants reduces the symptoms of colic. What this means? There is some sort of dietary issue going on, but what it is could be different in each child.

What causes colic is truly a mystery, though many have their opinions. Why your child is suffering is something that only you and your doctor can try to figure out. What works for one child may not work for yours, but usually relief can be found. So, keep trying new things until your baby is smiling and happy again.

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