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Stop the Crying! A Parent’s Guide to Colic and Reflux

A guide by Dr. Jenn Berman "Therapist, author, radio host, psychological expert & parent of twins" (Los Angeles, CA)

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I must preface this guide by saying I am not a medical professional. I am a Marriage, Family and Child Therapist, a parenting columnist (I write a column called “Dr. Jenn” that is printed in five magazines) and I am the author of The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids and also SuperBaby: 12 Ways to Give Your Child a Head Start in the First 3 Years (which includes a terrific expert sidebar about reflux and colic by Bryan Vartabian). But more importantly for this guide, I am the mother of two babies (twins) with severe reflux and colic. They are doing much better now and I am still standing!

Unless you have gone through it, it is difficult to understand how serious reflux can be. I watched my daughters projectile vomit, writhe in pain, and refuse to eat for about five months. The turning point for me was reading the book Colic Solved: The Essential Guide to Infant Reflux and the Care of Your Crying, Difficult-to- Soothe Baby. This book does a great job of explaining what reflux is, how to treat it, the possible medications that may be suggested to you by your doctor, understanding test, and figuring out what formula is best for your baby. The author manages to convey the information with humor and as a result has written a surprisingly readable book.

What is Colic?

Colic is usually defined as uncontrollable and constant crying for at least three hours a day for three days a week in a baby that is otherwise healthy and well-fed. Experts estimate that it occurs in 10-25% of babies. Colic usually starts several weeks after birth, peaks at about 6 weeks of age and usually shows marked improvement by the baby's third to fifth month. Or so they say.

The Reflux Connection

In his brilliant book, Colic Solved, pediatric gastroenterologist Bryan Vartabedian claims that colic is often part of the treatable hidden epidemic of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Vartabedian claims that as many as 70 percent of babies between the ages of four and six months spit up at least once a day, which is the most common sign of reflux,. If your baby has one or more of the seven symptoms listed below you should have your child evaluated by a pediatrician or pediatric gastroenterologist. The symptoms are:
1. Spitting and vomiting
2. Constant hiccups
3. Feeding disturbances
4. Chronic irritability
5. Discomfort when lying on the back
6. Sleep disturbances
7. Chronic cough and/or congestion

Reflux is often under diagnosed because it is not recognized, especially when a baby is thriving and otherwise healthy.

It is crucial to get the proper medical attention for a child who has these issues. Babies with Reflux tend to do much better when they are prescribed the proper medication and, in the case of bottle-fed infants, given the most appropriate formula.

YOU SHOULD ALWAYS TALK TO YOUR PEDIATRICIAN BEFORE TRYING ANY NEW INTERVENTIONS.
These are things that helped my daughters but please make sure to talk to your child’s doctor before trying any of them.

BOOKS:
The Happiest Baby on the Block This book is helpful for babies with typical colic or very mild reflux but not for those with serious reflux problems. However, the tools that Karp offers are helpful for any parent.
Colic Solved: The Essential Guide to Infant Reflux and the Care of Your Crying, Difficult-to- Soothe Baby It doesn't get better than this for parents with reflux babies. This book is packed with everything you need to know to help your child.
Curing Infant Colic This is an older book. Try it is you are desperate for information.
Life on the Reflux Roller Coaster One mother's experience with a child with reflux.

TOOLS WE FOUND TO BE HELPFUL:

Happi Tummi Removable Waistband - Blue- This “belly belt” works like a heating pad. It was one of the best discoveries we found in our search for things to help our daughters. You put the belt in the microwave for about 20 seconds and then Velcro it around baby’s tummy. The one we have smells like lavender which is supposed to help aid in relaxation.
<product no longer available> -I was told by a friend who teaches Mommy and me (and is the mother of six children) that these are the best. She told me to also use these for teething, as opposed to the Highland Colic Tablets because those have caffeine and these do not.
Organic Chamomile - 16 Wrapped Tea Bags - Traditional Medicinals- My pediatrician recommended putting one tea bag in hot water for three minutes and adding one teaspoon of sugar (sugar can act as a mild laxative and can help babies with digestion problems move food through a little faster. We gave out babies 1-2 ounces at a time during the “Witching Hour.” It seemed to help. Chamomile is supposed to be a calming agent and is also helpful for digestive problems.
Mommy's Bliss Gripe Water, Liquid, 4-ounce bottle- We found this to be more effective than Mylocon and we mixed it with my daughters’ medication (Zantac and Reglan) which seemed to make it more palatable. It also seemed to help some of the pain.
Traditional Medicinals Organic, Chamomile, 16-Count Boxes (Pack of 6) is another brand that works well. This version has Chamomile in it and needs to be refrigerated.
Mylicon Gas Relief Drops for Infants, Dye Free, 1-Ounce Bottles- This can help gas which some believe is also related to colic. I prefer the dye-free version.
Munchkin The Medicator, Colors May Vary- For parents that have to give an infant medication these are the greatest. Some times the tops don’t close properly but the convenience factor is fantastic.
The First Years Newborn Pacifiers - 2 Pack- A nurse I worked with encouraged using a pacifier, even during feeds, because she said that it helped babies swallow less air during the feed. I don’t know if this is just an old wives’ tale but I was desperate enough to try anything. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends pacifiers because studies show that pacifier use reduces the incidence of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Dr. Brown's Natural Flow Newborn Feeding Set We were told that these bottles are particularly good for infants with colic. We used these for many months but then got scared about Bispehnol-A and switched to Born Free Twin Pack Wide Neck Bottles, 9-Ounce. We didn't have a problem. I don't know if it was because their reflux was better at that point or if it was the "venting system" that Born Free uses to reduce gas. It is important to make sure to switch nipples as your child is able. Level one takes the most effort for the baby to get the milk and level three has the biggest hole. We switched early because it looked like my daughters were swallowing a lot of air trying to get the milk out.

FORMULA THAT MIGHT HELP FOR REFLUX BABIES:
* Once again, always check with your pediatrician!!!*
Similac Alimentum Advance Ready to use 32 oz. btl. and Nutramigen Formula for Cows Milk Allergy CONCENTRATE, Liquid, 13 Ounce (Pack of 12) Vartabedian recommends these for babies who have milk protein allergies. My daughters did better on liquid than powder.

WEBSITES:
Colic Calm http://www.coliccalm.com/
Colic Help http://www.colichelp.com/
Colic Solved http://colicsolved.com/
Cry-sis http://www.cry-sis.org.uk/
Pediatric / Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER) http://www.reflux.org/

I hope this guide has been helpful!

Products mentioned include:
1.  The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids  by Jenn Berman
$11.75 Used & New from: $2.89
4.9 out of 5 stars   (30)
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2.  SuperBaby: 12 Ways to Give Your Child a Head Start in the First 3 Years  by Jenn Berman
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3.  Colic Solved: The Essential Guide to Infant Reflux and the Care of Your Crying, Difficult-to- Soothe Baby  by Bryan S. Vartabedian
$10.39 Used & New from: $0.01
4.7 out of 5 stars   (82)
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4.  The Happiest Baby on the Block  by Harvey Karp
$11.78 Used & New from: $0.01
4.5 out of 5 stars   (1,491) | 5 customer discussions
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5.  Colic Solved: The Essential Guide to Infant Reflux and the Care of Your Crying, Difficult-to- Soothe Baby  by Bryan S. Vartabedian
$10.39 Used & New from: $0.01
4.7 out of 5 stars   (82)
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6.  Curing Infant Colic  by Bruce Taubman
Used & New from: $0.01
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7.  Life on the Reflux Roller Coaster  by Roni MacLean
$22.46 Used & New from: $1.41
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8.  Happi Tummi Removable Waistband - Blue  by Happi Tummi
$14.99 Used & New from: $13.00
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9.  Organic Chamomile - 16 Wrapped Tea Bags - Traditional Medicinals  by Traditional Medicinals
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10.  Mommy's Bliss Gripe Water, Liquid, 4-ounce bottle  by Baby's Bliss
$9.48 Used & New from: $6.67
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11.  Traditional Medicinals Organic, Chamomile, 16-Count Boxes (Pack of 6)  by Traditional Medicinals
$21.42 Used & New from: $20.85
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12.  Mylicon Gas Relief Drops for Infants, Dye Free, 1-Ounce Bottles  by Mylicon
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4.5 out of 5 stars   (12)
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13.  Munchkin The Medicator, Colors May Vary  by Munchkin
$4.89 Used & New from: $0.95
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14.  The First Years Newborn Pacifiers - 2 Pack  by The First Years
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15.  Dr. Brown's Natural Flow Newborn Feeding Set  by Dr. Brown's
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16.  Born Free Twin Pack Wide Neck Bottles, 9-Ounce  by BornFree
$13.23
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17.  Similac Alimentum Advance Ready to use 32 oz. btl.  by Similac
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18.  Nutramigen Formula for Cows Milk Allergy CONCENTRATE, Liquid, 13 Ounce (Pack of 12)  by Nutramigen
$74.69 Used & New from: $73.99
3.9 out of 5 stars   (45)
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Author

Dr. Jenn Berman "Therapist, author, radio host, psychological expert & parent of twins" (Los Angeles, CA)
Qualifications: Parent of two reflux babies, therapist, parenting columnist
Last updated: 8/16/10
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