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New Colic Remedies

There's nothing more stressful than a baby who cries incessantly. These groundbreaking new treatments just may restore some calm.

My son, he was a crier. He howled in the middle of the night. He wailed during the witching hour. In fact, he started screaming as soon as his eyes popped open. "How can he be pissed already?" I'd wonder. The baby was exhausted. My husband was exhausted. I was looking for a window to jump out of.

Did my son have colic -- a newborn condition loosely described as "excessive crying" that occurs at least three hours a day, three days a week, for three weeks? I didn't know. Colic isn't like an ear infection or pinkeye. You can't just go to the doctor, get a diagnosis, fill a prescription, and move on. Colic is more complicated. Indeed, Barry Lester, Ph.D., who runs the highly respected Colic Clinic at Brown University, in Providence, disputes the colic "rule of threes," preferring instead to call it a "behavior disorder" that interferes with the rest of a baby's life (not to mention his parents'). "We know it's developmentally normal for babies to experience an increase in crying over the first four to six weeks, but colic is about crying way too much and figuring out what might be causing it," says Lester. Adding to the confusion are dozens of products billed as colic remedies: swings (relied on them), vibration (tried it), gripe water (contemplated it), and the list goes on. Many work briefly, and then the baby goes right back to crying. Blessedly, most babies outgrow colic by 3 or 4 months of age, but you may not have to wait that long. Parenting investigates the latest breakthroughs.

Special Formulas

Name any formula and you'll find a baby whose colic has been alleviated because of it -- or at least it would seem. "About one fourth to one third of mothers change formulas within the baby's first six to eight weeks," says Carol Lynn Berseth, M.D., director of medical affairs at the formula manufacturer Mead Johnson Nutrition. "Many moms want to make a change, any change, to see if it will work." Pediatricians generally recommend starting out with a traditional cow's-milk formula, such as Enfamil and Similac, which contain a blend of whey and casein proteins. While the majority of infants do fine on these, colicky babies sometimes benefit from a different variety. Options include formulas that have only whey protein, such as Gerber Good Start Gentle Plus; soy protein, such as Enfamil ProSobee Lipil; or a low-lactose variety like Up & Up Lactose Sensitive. Usually there's no harm in trying a new formula -- just don't switch willy-nilly without talking to your pediatrician, Dr. Berseth notes.

Why they may work for you: A study published last year in the journal Clinical Pediatrics found that fussiness and crying were greatly quelled when the babies were switched to a soy-based or a low-lactose formula. Other studies show that 5 to 15 percent of babies may have a cow's-milk allergy, so for those who have related symptoms like mucus or streaks of blood in their stool, or a scaly rash, a trial of hypoallergenic formula such as Nutramigen or Alimentum is worth attempting, says Robert Baker, Jr., M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist at Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo, in New York.