Do tiny tummy troubles cause colic?
There’s no way around it: All babies cry, and many babies cry a lot. Fortunately, most of the time, even a baby’s most passionate shrieks just mean he’s hungry, wet, soiled or lonely. But, what if your cute little guy keeps wailing even though his diaper is dry and you’re cuddling him in your arms? What happens if you try everything and he still doesn’t stop screaming? That’s when parents start to wonder if their baby has COLIC…which begs the questions: Where did it come from? And how do I stop it?
The word colic derives from the more than 2000 year old Greek word, kolikos, meaning “large intestine or colon”. Even back then, parents mistakenly believed that their babies were crying because of intestinal pain.
As you can imagine, since time immemorial, parents of crying babies have been analyzing their child’s movements, tone of voice, and facial gestures, trying to come up with an explanation for why their contented little infant suddenly “morphs” into one of the un-happiest babies on the block. But can any of these theories explain the true cause of colic?
THEORY #1) Do Tiny Tummy Troubles Cause Colic?
Intestinal “gas” – Do babies cry from gas…or, is that just a lot of hot air?
If your baby is like most infants he’ll have gas…often. Don’t be surprised if you get to witness virtuoso performances of his burping, tooting, and grunting several times a day. Many parents firmly believe that gas causes colic…it’s an open and shut case!
However, fussy newborns have no more gas in their intestines than calm babies. In 1954, Dr. Ronald Illingworth, England’s pre-eminent pediatrician, compared the stomach x-rays of normal babies with those of babies with colic, and found NO difference in the amount of gas, even at the peak of crying.
Pooping Problems – Can constipation trigger colicky crying?
Some parents worry constipation is the cause of their baby’s colic because they struggle to poop like they’re in a heavy weight wrestling match. However, the word constipation doesn’t mean straining to poop, it means”hard poop” and only a few, fussy, formula-fed babies actually suffer from that. Most infants who groan and twist when they poop usually pass a stool that’s soft or even runny.
So, if grunting babies aren’t truly constipated, why are they working so hard? What’s the problem? There are a couple of reasons why babies with soft stools struggle to “go to the bathroom”:
1) Most babies aren’t very coordinated – In order to poop, an infant has to tighten his stomach and relax his anus, at exactly the same moment. Many young children try so hard that they accidentally end up clenching both and end up trying to force their poop through a closed anus.
2) They’re lying flat on their backs – Imagine the trouble you would have if you tried to poop in that position.
I believe the true reason babies grunt and frown when they poop is because they’re working so hard to overcome these 2 challenges, not because they’re in pain!
“Overactive” Intestines – Crying, cramps and the gastro-colic reflex
Does your baby begin to cry and double-up shortly after you start a feeding? It certainly may look like he’s having indigestion and stomach cramps, however, this twisting and grunting is actually just an overreaction to a normal intestinal reflex called the gastro-colic reflex (literally, the “stomach-colon” reflex).
This valuable reflex is the stomach’s way of telling the colon: “Time to get rid of the poop and make room for the new food that was just eaten!” If you’ve noticed your baby tends to poop during or after eating…this is the reason why.
Most babies are unaware when this reflex is happening. For them, it’s as unconscious as blinking. Other infants may feel a twinge of spasm after a really big feeding or if they’re particularly frazzled at the end of the day. But, for a few babies, the squeezing of the colon is as intense as a punch in the belly! These infants jerk back and writhe as if they’re in terrible pain.
As you might imagine, the gastro-colic reflex can be even more uncomfortable if your baby is constipated and his colon has to strain to push out the firm poop.
However, most babies who cry from this reflex have soft, pasty poops. They don’t cry from pain but rather because they are overly sensitive to this weird sensation of squeezing.