Dr. Michael Segal (SimulConsult CEO and a pediatric neurologist) passed along this post. He’s concerned about the message that pharmacological products are the way to handle colic.
The NYT describes the many products available for treating colic:
Doctors cheerfully define colic as more than three hours of “unexplained crying” three times a week in an otherwise healthy infant. It affects anywhere from 10 percent to half of all babies in the first three months, and leaves glassy-eyed parents ready to try almost anything.
Is it indigestion? Gas? Nostalgia for the womb? Nobody really knows. So in this city where 6 of 10 babies have at least one foreign-born parent and pediatricians come from every corner of the world, a cornucopia of colic cures serves as a kind of Rorschach test of child-rearing culture in migration.
Only at the end do they suggest the radical notion of holding the baby, suggested to a pediatrician by a family member:
Native or immigrant, there may be no substitute for experience, said Dr. Sandy Saintonge, a pediatrician at New York Hospital Queens, whose family is from Haiti. She has counseled patients from every continent on colic, in the process collecting an international repertory of home remedies.
Then, 18 months ago, she had her own child.
“I wasn’t prepared for the crying,” she confessed. Eventually, she called her older sister, a nurse and experienced mother, who gave her the best advice: “Just ride it through. It will not last forever.”
So the doctor put on her music headphones, held her baby close, and danced through the tears.
Have we forgotten the Harlow monkey experiments, where maternal deprivation had terrible consequences?
Harlow’s name is bonded to experiments that might be questionable today. For example, he separated a baby monkey from its mother and raised it in a cage with two substitute “mothers.” The wire “mother” had a bottle for the infant, the cloth one didn’t. Tellingly, as soon as the infants finished nursing, they abandoned the wire monkey and clutched the cloth one.
Even though the experiment demonstrated the primacy of nurture to sustenance, the cloth mother was not an adequate replacement: the isolated monkeys grew up with severe emotional and behavioral problems, says Carlson, associate professor of neuroscience and psychology at Harvard Medical School.
My observations, also not taught in medical school or pediatrics training, is that holding the baby, doing knee-bend motions, and getting away from smells of food (even for a breast-fed only baby) are very effective. With baby carriers and pharmacological “colic” advice I fear our society is doing a re-run of Harlow’s experiments.November 11, 2005