Ask Dr. Karp is a monthly Q & A series with world-renowned pediatrician Harvey Karp. Each month, he'll join us on the our site Blog to answer questions from our fans.
Q. Is there any good research on the correlation between colic and characteristics later in life like intelligence, temperament, and attachment?
Dr. Karp: Although most doctors throw up their hands and say there's no cure for colic, I believe my work on the 4th trimester and calming reflex are the best explanation and treatment available today. And we're engaged in a research study at the University of Texas in Houston to prove it!
Colic has been a mystery for millennia. "Kolikos" is ancient Greek for intestine. And for over 3,000 years this name was used to describe persistent infant crying. Why? Because babies often grunt and strain when they cry, so crying was thought to be a sign of stomach pain or gas. In fact, until the 1970s, doctors routinely treated colicky babies with – are you ready for this? – a pain reliever made from opium!
Some people still think colic is a sign of gas. But if that's the case, why do car rides or walks around the so often calm fussing? (Those certainly wouldn't help our stomach cramps!) Others say that overstimulation causes colic. But if that's the case, why do loud vacuum cleaner sounds calm fussing?
Some recent studies point to "bad" bacteria in the intestine as a potential colic trigger. They found that infants given probiotic drops (the "good" bacteria, like those found in yogurt) got better a little faster. But if bad bacteria caused colic, then preemies would cry a lot, because they have tons of bad bacteria in their gut. Yet, preemies never get colic before their due date. And gut bacteria don't explain why colic usually disappears by 3 months even without probiotic drops.
Over and over, I've seen fussy babies grow up into fantastic, good-natured kids! What we're increasingly coming to understand is that colic is a mix of three things: too much weird, loud, chaotic stimulation + a child with a sensitive or spirited temperament + (most important) too little calming, rhythmic stimulation.
To find out more about colic, the calming reflex, and how to use the 5 S's to stop most colic in its tracks, please see The Happiest Baby DVD.
Photo:I Should Be Folding Laundry, Flickr
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