How I’m Hoping to Prevent Colic with Baby No. 2

Image Source: Heather Neal
Image Source: Heather Neal

Screaming, crying, wailing, writhing, waking.

Those are the words I’d use to describe my son’s behavior in his first few months of life. Everyday he screamed. He wailed until he was beet red and then he cried some more. We bounced, sssshhhed, sang, danced, swung, and rocked, but rarely did he calm or settle.

I was in complete dismay that motherhood was so difficult. That babies cried so, so much. That I wasn’t good at taking care of a baby. New motherhood was kicking my butt, and I was in awe that none of my friends had conveyed just what a newborn baby was really like.

One day, in complete desperation (or perhaps just in need of a little support or a shoulder to cry on), I called my pediatrician’s office. I felt like a complete fool as I shared my complaint, “My baby won’t stop crying.” The nurse asked me a few questions about how often and how long my baby cried for, and scheduled an appointment for me the next day.

When the appointment finally rolled around, I was sure my baby would choose that one moment to stop crying and act like all the other sweet innocent newborns I’d seen in the waiting room. But luckily (the only time I will consider a screaming baby in public “lucky”), he chose to stick with his normal routine of wailing incessantly.

The doctor took one look at me and said, “You’re not doing this wrong. This isn’t normal.”

She didn’t need to say a single other word during the entire appointment; she’d somehow knowingly told me exactly what I needed to hear.

The diagnosis: colic.

The cause: unknown.

I quickly learned that “colic” really means nothing more than crying for a prolonged period of time. It’s not actually a diagnosis or indication of what’s wrong or that there’s even something wrong at all. The old-school thought is that it’s just something babies go through and then it miraculously resolves (as you as the parent desperately cling to the end of your rope waiting for that day).

The doctor took one look at me and said, “You’re not doing this wrong. This isn’t normal.”
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I wasn’t willing to settle for the “it just happens” answer and quickly dove into research mode, where I found some of the newer guesses as to the cause. A popular explanation was that it had to do with the baby’s immature digestive system — more specifically, reflux.

My son didn’t have the telltale signs of reflux that I’d heard of, like spitting up, but the more I read, the more I knew I’d stumbled exactly upon the root of our problem: silent reflux.

While there were no outward signs, he showed classic signs of infant reflux — he’d arch his back when you laid him down, his breath smelled even when there was no milk in his mouth, and he made funny gurgling/choking sounds. Knowing he was in pain and not crying just because dumped a wealth of guilt on my shoulders, but it also gave me the motivation to keep pushing forward.

We started down a landslide of potential treatments. I changed the position I nursed him, alternated sides to help slow the flow of milk, and kept him upright or at an incline at all times. When these “easy” fixes didn’t work, we tried medication. It wasn’t a miracle cure, but we saw enough improvement to know we were on to something. But not wanting my son to begin his life heavily medicated, I kept searching for answers.

The day I found our answer was the first day I found hope that I could actually do this parenting thing. I may not be able to calm my baby down or get him to sleep, but I sure as heck could figure out what was wrong with him and find a way to fix it.

While reflux and colic were the outward problem, the root of the cause lay further in his digestive system: an intolerance to dairy and soy. Apparently it’s extremely common for babies not to be able to handle milk and soy and it often presents as reflux. I knew we were on the right path when I read some of the other symptoms, like mucousy, bloody stool. At this point we’d been seeing a GI specialist and were getting ready to cross the bridge into exploratory diagnostic measures, but I couldn’t force myself to make the appointment.

I’ve never been so relieved to hear something was wrong with my son.
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Instead, I went to the doctor one last time, this time with my own diagnosis and accompanying photograph in hand. I apologized for the graphic nature and showed her a picture of my son’s diaper contents. She immediately told me I was correct; it was Milk Soy Protein Intolerance (MSPI). It can cause reflux and colic and is due to the baby’s inability to digest dairy and soy products. The best part? The cure is simple: avoid all milk and soy in the diet, which meant no milk or soy in my diet since I was breastfeeding.

We later learned he also had allergic colitis and food-protein induced enterocolitis, which when broken down into the bare bones means there were a bunch of foods his system couldn’t handle, but by eliminating them in both our diets, he should heal and the colic should resolve.

I’ve never been so relieved to hear something was wrong with my son. I’d been through spells of hopelessness and doubt, sometimes believing I was making it all up in my head and I was just really a terrible mother. Fortunately I was able to hold it together long enough to fight for answers and finally found the right one. Magic didn’t happen overnight, but by eventually eliminating all the foods he reacted to from my diet, we were able to control his symptoms, wean him off the reflux medication, and he finally, finally stopped crying.

So why am I rehashing this all now? Because “colic” (and all that nasty little word entails) is exactly what made us wait four years to have another baby. The fear of going through it all again was too much to handle right away; we needed time to recover. When we did, we knew from the beginning that we’d do things a little different, but were fully aware that it may be completely out of our control. The best we could do was set ourselves up for success.

What that means for us is assuming it will happen again and being prepared to handle it mentally, but also trying to prevent our second child from having to go through the pain and the misery altogether. Specifically it means that the biggest culprits for my son’s allergies (dairy, soy, and gluten) are once again going out of my diet.

I ate them cautiously at the beginning of pregnancy so that the baby was at least a little bit exposed to the proteins in those foods, but about three months out from expected delivery, those foods will be off limits to me. There’s no solid research or evidence that this will have any bearing on the outcome, but it won’t hurt to try. At the very least, it will let us tackle the potential problem head on, instead of scrambling in reverse to figure it out and fix it.

By eliminating those foods before I deliver, I will have cleared the proteins out of my body and therefore my breast milk, meaning this baby will have “clean” milk from the get go. If we’re fortunate and all the stars align and this baby doesn’t have colic, we can introduce the foods back in and see what happens, instead of waiting to see if the baby has colic, then clearing my system, then clearing the baby’s system.

So who knows, it may all be for naught and it may completely be out of our control, but doing this one simple thing makes us feel less fearful, less nervous, and more empowered that we’re doing everything we can to prevent colic for a second time around. And maybe, just maybe, this baby (and us) will sleep that sweet slumber that newborns have been rumored to do.

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Article Posted 4 years Ago

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