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Surviving Colic

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Focusing on the family continued...

Lester is quick to point out that his approach in no way targets the mother as a cause of colic. That old-school attitude "does no good and in fact, makes matters worse," he says. Instead, Lester sees the situation more as a vicious cycle -- a crying, irritable child can make a mother miserable (45% of the clinic's mothers are diagnosed as depressed, more than double the normal average), can compromise a marriage, and can even cause siblings to develop problems, such as bedwetting.

Of course, the Colic Clinic does devote significant attention to the infants themselves. All who come in are thoroughly examined and screened for possible causes of their irritability, such as heartburn, sleep problems, or food sensitivities. Parents are also given comprehensive guidance regarding how they might try to soothe their child.

Still, a great deal of the clinicians' time is spent teaching coping strategies to the parents. For, as Lester points out, "if we don't intervene, colic can affect the parent-child relationship long after the crying stops."

Here are some of the Colic Clinic's suggestions for parents:

Keep a colic diary

The Colic Clinic provides parents with a diary that divides each 24-hour day into 15-minute sections, each with check boxes for if the child is crying, sleeping, feeding, and/or awake. At the end of every week, the four behaviors are highlighted in four different colors. "This allows a parent to see how much a child is actually crying and when it is most likely to occur."

A diary also can make parents aware of what they may be doing to exacerbate the situation. "A mother may realize that, gosh, she's been feeding the baby 20 times a day, or putting him down every night at 11:00 pm. She might, then, try to modify these behaviors to see if the situation improves."

In the very least, keeping a diary gives a parent a better sense of control and a clearer perspective of a situation that may otherwise seem to them like a shapeless, sleep-deprived abyss.

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