The word “colic” can spark quite the controversy in the parenting world. With no real known cause of colic, it was once a label slapped on a baby that cried a lot for no apparent reason, now it’s often thought to be a symptom of underlying gastrointestinal pain. My husband and experienced the world of colic for the first few months of our son’s life and we’ll be the first to tell you it doesn’t matter what you call it, it’s awful. We had to do our fair share of fighting to get help for our son instead of having his cries be simply dismissed as colic. Any parent that has been through it knows calling it colic doesn’t make your baby any better. With 16-20% of babies experiencing colic, that’s a lot of parents we can commiserate with.
I’ve since become a sort of unofficial advocate for new moms with babies that just won’t stop screaming. I always ask those moms if the baby has reflux and if they’ve tried eliminated dairy and soy from their diet. I’m no expert, but more often than not a change in diet or medication can ease those babies’ painful cries. A common perspective now is that colic isn’t simply crying, it’s pain. New research now suggests the cause of colic might be related to pain, but not stomach pain: head pain. Migraines to be specific. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that 72.6% of the children they looked at with migraine headaches suffered from colic as an infant. The same connection was not found with tension headaches, just migraines. A migraine is different from a headache in that it can produce a multitude of symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and sensitivity to light, sound, and smell. A surprising number of children suffer from migraines. The study reports migraines occur in 1% to 3% of kids ages 3 to 7, 4% to 11% from ages 7 to 11, and 8% to 23% from ages 11 to 15 years old.
While this doesn’t specifically help babies with colic right now, it could definitely help lead us in the right direction. Understanding what causes the persistent and intense crying of colic is the first step in figuring out how to treat it.