Newsflash! Have We Cornered Colic?

Infant-ColicsI read a lot of pediatric journals, and it’s not often that I come upon information that makes me sit up and say “Wow, are you kidding?” But this is one of those times.

Infant colic is a problem that has defied a medical explanation for … well, forever. It’s common, it causes an inflammation of the gut, which is just learning to digest food, and it’s awful. It strikes fear in the hearts of new parents who have a baby who cries inconsolably each evening, on schedule, for hours at a time.

But now we may have an answer! J. Marc Rhoads and his colleagues have published an article in the Journal of Pediatrics that claims to identify the evildoer. A bacteria called Klebsiella, commonly found in the GI tract, may be to blame.

They studied an admittedly small sample of 36 babies, half of whom were colicky, and found that only those with colic had Klebsiella in their intestines. Noncolicky babies? Other common bacteria were present, but not Klebsiella.

We had kids with colic and it’s no fun. The horror begins at around 3 weeks old. You cuddle, you rock, you walk the floor ’til the wee hours, and by then you’re crying almost as helplessly as your little one. You’re convinced that you’re the worst parents in the entire world. Finally, just when it seems you won’t make it through the night, things calm down. He falls asleep and all seems well … until tomorrow night when it starts all over again.

For my guy (you guessed it — Max — the same one who stripped naked until he was seven) there was only one anodyne. We’d snuggle him in the infant seat, put it on the kitchen counter, and run the water full blast. He’d calm down within minutes … but only as long as we kept the water running. In our effort to save resources we tried everything. We even recorded the sound of the water running full blast, but it didn’t work. Somehow his little body knew the difference.

And then, as it typically does, like clockwork, his colic ended by 12 weeks. It may have been the longest 9 weeks of my life, but like the pain of labor it’s quickly forgotten. The problem is, colic is now suspected to be related to later gastroenterologic conditions, like celiac and Crohn’s disease. Nothing to fool around with.

So wouldn’t it be great if we actually had an answer after all these years? And could treat it with something as simple as antibiotics? More study is needed, and we can’t really expect a sample size of 36 to prove anything, but it’s the first promising research on colic to come around in … well, forever!

Keep your fingers crossed …

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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.


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