The True Basis of Colic - Woodmam

There’s no place like home.

Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz

After centuries of myths and confusion, I am convinced that the true basis of colic is simply that fussy babies need the sensations of the womb to help stay calm.

You might ask, “If all babies get evicted early and need a fourth trimester, why don’t they all get colic?”

The reason is simple: Most babies can handle being born too soon because they have mild temperaments and good self-calming abilities. Thus, despite being exposed to waves of overstimulation and understimulation, they can soothe themselves.

Colicky babies, on the other hand, have big trouble with self-calming. They live through the same experiences as calm babies, but rather than taking them in stride, they overreact dramatically. These infants desperately need the sensations of the womb to help them turn on their calming reflex.

The Colic Elephant: A Blend of the Fourth Trimester and Other Colic Theories

As we’ve discussed, experts have blamed colic on tummy troubles, anxiety, immaturity, and temperament. But, like the blind men and the elephant, these experts perceived only parts of the problem and overlooked the all-important common link—the missing fourth trimester.

The missing fourth trimester makes babies vulnerable to the unstable qualities of their individual natures (brain immaturity and challenging temperament) and to small daily upsets.

This is how I believe all the colic theories relate to one another:

1. Brain Immaturity—This inborn characteristic can greatly increase a baby’s need for a fourth trimester. Fussy infants have such poor state control and self-calming ability that even small amounts of over- or understimulation can set off a chain reaction of escalating flailing and loud cries.

2. Temperament—A baby whose nature is extremely sensitive and/or intense often overreacts to small disturbances and needs a great deal of help turning on the calming reflex.

3. Big Tummy Troubles—Pain from food allergies or acid reflux can occasionally make a baby frantic. But these problems are much more distressing in babies whose self-calming ability is immature or who have challenging temperaments.

4. Tiny Tummy Troubles—Constipation and gas can spark discomfort that provokes crying in babies with brain immaturity and/or a challenging temperament.

5. Maternal Anxiety—Fussy babies sometimes cry more when their anxious mothers handle them too gently or jump chaotically from one ineffective soothing attempt to another.
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