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The Colic Survival Guide

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Experts aren't sure exactly what causes colic — or how to cure it. The condition affects one in five babies, usually starting when they're 2 to 4 weeks old. Some experts think the crying may be related to intestinal pain or an immature nervous system. Other theories include food sensitivities or allergies, and hypersensitivity to outside stimulation.

Desperate parents try just about anything to stop the tears. But what works for one baby may have little effect on another. Jessica Johnson of Beacon, New York, tried soothing her colicky daughter with long walks in the stroller, car rides and gripe water. “It all just came down to me holding, rocking and patting her back for hours,” she says.

What's a distraught mama to do? Don't give up, says Bryan Vartabedian M.D., author of Colic Solved and father of a once-colicky kid. In some instances, colic may actually be caused by acid reflux, a milk allergy or another treatable condition, he says. “I always tell parents to first rule out the really obvious problems that can make a baby cry — hunger or sleepiness,” he says.

The Infant Behavior, Cry and Sleep Clinic in Rhode Island tackles colic by pairing its tiny patients with a team of pediatricians and mental health professionals. Over multiple visits, families get customized treatment plans to address babies' sleep, feeding and schedule problems — as well as an outlet for parents' frustrations. Families treated at the clinic say so far, so good. A recent study found that babies treated there stopped crying at a faster rate and had a more rapid decline in the amount of crying per day than colicky babies who only visited pediatricians for routine checkups.

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