Colic—a bane of babies—and their parents!
Filed under Clinical Cases
Baby Anna had been screaming since birth. “She screams uncontrollably from 7 till 11 p.m. or even midnight,” said her mother.
Anna was her firstborn and I saw her when she was fifteen days old.
When the cry is loud and continuous and lasts one to four hours, often in the evening after feeding, it is called “colic” or “infantile colic” and it is the bane of many young mothers.
Dr. Morris A. Wessel, a clinical professor of pediatrics at Yale Medical School in New Haven, in a1954 article in Pediatrics, referred to this condition as “paroxysmal fussing” or “infantile colic.” It occurs in an otherwise healthy and well-fed baby who cries or screams for a good three hours a day, often in the evening. It goes on most days of the week and can last four months or longer.
Colic is thought to be the result of the baby’s immature digestive tract which fails to digest mother’s milk (or formula) resulting in painful abdominal bloating. The brand-new digestive system is literally learning how to process food. Peristalsis, the involuntary constriction and relaxation of the muscles of the stomach and gut which knead the food, sending it down the digestive tract, is thought to be functioning imperfectly resulting in the bolus of food staying too long in the stomach or small intestine. Moreover, the number of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) that aid in the breakdown of food are, presumably, inadequate.
Sometimes the mother’s diet contains foods she digests and tolerates well but the infant does not. Remember, all foods the mother ingests and digests find their way into her milk. If the baby’s digestive system cannot tolerate those foods, they could be responsible for the colic. Many mothers curtail their diet avoiding certain foods and, indeed, the infant’s colic does go away.
Often, the colic is simply unexplainable and mother and child suffer through it until the child’s digestive system matures sufficiently and it finally winds down. Colic affects an estimated twenty-five percent of newborns plus their two parents who feel frustrated over their inability to console their child.
Anna also had a high bilirubin. Bilirubin is a breakdown product of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying pigment of red blood cells. It is common for it to be elevated in newborns turning the skin yellow. It is called “physiological jaundice” and can affect up to fifty percent of newborns. Anna’s was high enough to concern her pediatrician and she had been admitted to the hospital several times for light therapy to bring it down. Despite the light therapy it jumped back up again.
The high bilirubin eventually returns to normal levels in the great majority of babies. Colic, however, is known to carry on for up to six months and is stressful for both the baby and the parents who often loose sleep and patience. Some mothers with colicky babies go into high anxiety.
As always, I began to search for a homeopathic medicine that corresponded closely to Anna’s symptoms and to Anna, the person.
I learned that her mother had been drinking a health drink called Noni juice. She had already stopped drinking it but had she not I would have suggested she did. The colic, however, continued.
Symptoms that I deemed important:
- Anna’s colic was worse lying on her back, slightly better lying on her right side.
- Her head was quite hot and her feet cold.
- “She is expressive,” said her mother. “She already has many facial expressions. She was born at noon and kept her eyes open for the next fifteen hours.”
The fact she stayed awake fifteen hours the day of her birth intrigued me. To me, it signified she was a curious child, very interested in her environment.
Based on her friendliness and the fact she was worse lying on her back and better on her right side, I gave Phosphorus. Two days later she was no better. On reconsidering, I gave more importance to her curious nature and the fact her head was warm and her feet cold. These symptoms indicated Sulphur. She received a single dose and two days later the colic was no more—much to the delight of her parents. Rather than four or more months of suffering, homeopathy cured her colic in two days, before she was three weeks old.
Oh yes, the bilirubin also dropped to normal which would have happened anyway though the Sulphur may very well have speeded up the process.