Theory #4: Is a Baby’s Immature Brain the Cause of Colic? Woodmam

During medical school, I was taught colic was an intestinal problem. Soon thereafter, that theory was pushed aside by the concept of brain immaturity. As we discovered more about our babies’ nervous systems, we came to believe colic resulted from their immature brains getting overstimulated by all the new experiences babies encountered after birth. It’s no wonder this theory became popular because, let’s face it, babies are so … immature!

Babies have the coordination of drunken sailors and the quick wits of, well, newborns. But what exactly is immature in your baby’s brain, and how might that predispose him to uncontrollable crying?

Mental Abilities Your Baby Was Born With

Imagine you’re taking a very long trip but can only bring one suitcase with you. Now imagine that your suitcase is tiny. In a funny way, that’s the situation your baby was in as he was preparing for birth. He could only fit into his small brain the most basic abilities he would need to live outside the protection of your womb.

If you could have helped him pack, what abilities would you have considered important for him to be born with? Walking? Smiling? Saying “I love you, Mommy”?

Over millions of years, Mother Nature picked four indispensable survival tools to fit into our babies’ apple-size brains:

1. Life-support controls—the ability to maintain blood pressure, breathing, etc.

2. Reflexes—dozens of important automatic behaviors that help newborns sneeze, suck, swallow, cry, and more.

3. Limited control of muscles and senses—once babies can breathe and eat, these very limited abilities allow them to touch, taste, look around, and interact with the world.

4. State control—after babies start interacting with their families and their exciting new world, state control helps them turn their attention on (to watch and learn) and off (to recover and sleep).

Of all of these abilities, state control is the most important in determining whether or not he gets colic.
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