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Health & Baby

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Colicky Babies May Be More 'Emotional' Later

WebMD Health News

March 13, 2000 (Atlanta) -- Children who suffered from colic as infants seem to have no long-term complications, but they may be more likely to pitch temper tantrums later in childhood, say researchers from Sweden.

Their study, published in the journal Acta Paediatrica, looked at 50 children who had colic, along with 100 who didn't. The researchers found that by age 4, the colicky and noncolicky children were essentially the same in eating and sleeping habits, temperament, and behavior -- except for emotional outbursts.

"We discovered the excolicky children were much more emotional," researcher Catarina Canivet, PhD, tells WebMD. Canivet works in the department of community medicine at University Hospital in Lund.

Scientists say that the average infant cries two to three hours per day. Colicky babies cry more often than that, sometimes well in excess of four hours.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) estimates that 20-25% of the nearly 4 million babies born in the U.S. each year develop colic. In most cases, colic begins within the first three weeks of life and can continue up to 12 weeks or longer. It usually erupts at the same time each day, commonly in the late afternoon or early evening. No amount of handling, cuddling, or soothing seems to calm a baby with colic.

No one knows what triggers colic, although the AAP points to plenty of possible culprits: excessive gas, intolerance of formula or lactose intolerance, an immature digestive tract, hard stools or constipation, the mother's diet or habits, the home environment, and the use of an epidural anesthesia before delivery. There is no real treatment for colic, although physicians may recommend supportive therapies for parents.

The AAP notes that other than the obvious distress they're in, colicky babies are otherwise happy and healthy. Researchers note that they often eat more and grow faster than noncolicky babies.

In the Swedish study, mothers of the 4-year-olds who took part in the study filled out a questionnaire on the children's eating and sleeping habits and their behavior and temperament. They were also asked questions about complaints such as stomachaches, headaches, and bed-wetting, and about the family environment. The researchers also noted how long the mother breastfed.

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