Chiropractic May Help Colicky Babies

Few things are as frustrating and worrisome as a baby that won’t stop crying. You’ve tried feeding them, changing them, rocking them, singing to them, swaddling them, and driving them around the neighborhood for hours, and nothing seems to help.

You, my friend, officially have a colicky baby. According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately one out of five infants cry long enough to be considered colicky. Generally speaking, colic tends to affect babies in the first two months of life. What experts don’t know is what causes colic. While it may appear to be accompanied by abdominal pain, nobody has conclusively identified why some babies are simply inconsolable.

Some suspect it may be that certain babies are overly sensitive to stimulation. In certain cases, it appears the baby is suffering from uncomfortable intestinal gas. Other theories include hunger, overfeeding, allergies, intolerance to certain breast milk or formula proteins, fear, and even too much excitement. Some pediatricians have noted that parents who are exceptionally worried, anxious, or depressed may make babies cry more. Although the crying bouts can happen at any time, colic tends to rear its head at the end of the day.

The good news is that despite the ear-splitting wails accompanying the condition, colic is surprisingly not harmful to the baby in the short term, nor does there appear to be any long-term consequences either. Colicky babies feed and grow normally, even if it sounds like they are in the throes of despair. For parents, however, colic can cause sleep deprivation, stress, and bouts of self-doubt regarding one’s parenting abilities.

According to the Canadian Family Physician, “Mothers of infants with colic were found to be more concerned about their infants’ temperament and even to feel rejection compared with mothers of infants without colic. Mothers have been shown to be less responsive to, and to interact less with, infants they feel are ‘difficult’ at three months old. Strong negative emotions are still evident when these infants are eight months old.”

There are countless home remedies desperate parents have tried, and so far no medication available in the United States has proven to be an effective treatment for colic. However, pediatric chiropractors have reported some success in treating colicky babies. The Cochrane Library reported results from a study that investigated the efficacy of hands-on therapies, including chiropractic, for infantile colic.

Researchers determined that the majority of clinical trials suggested that after chiropractic treatments, parents of colicky infants reported fewer hours of crying per day. Professor George Lewith of the University of Southampton says, “The majority of the included trials indicate that the parents of infants receiving manipulative therapies reported fewer hours crying per day than parents whose infants did not. This difference is statistically significant and important for those families who experience this condition. These studies show that in this small sample, there were no adverse effects from using these treatments.”

The positive response to manual treatments suggested to some experts that colic has a digestive component at the very least. For example, the birth process, whether vaginal or C-section, can put strain on the infant’s head and neck, causing subtle shifts in the spine that can disrupt nerve signals between the brain and the digestive system. Pediatric chiropractic treatments can assure proper spinal alignment, which may alleviate digestion issues.

Regardless of the treatment, colic eventually resolves itself and symptoms improve when the baby is around six weeks old, and 90 percent of infants will outgrow colic by four months of age.
If your baby remains colicky beyond that, have them checked to rule out other conditions, such as reflux.