Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lessons for Walking and Colic


When I looked at my son this week, I did a double-take. I picked him up, looked in his ears, peered in his mouth, and checked under his shirt. I asked him, “Where’s the baby? He’s got to be in here somewhere!” He giggled like a baby, but he sure looks like a little boy. In many ways, he is acting like a little boy too. He says several words – daddy, kitty, dog, mamma if he’s crying – and randomly repeats even complicated words when others say them. He can color with crayons and in play does the correct action with the correct object, like strumming his toy guitar.
In other ways, he is still more “baby” than I would like. At 14 months, he is not doing many pre-walking activities such as pulling up, crawling on his knees, or cruising. His 12 month old playmate literally runs circles around him. He is still just army-crawling or scooting on his butt. Although he has gotten pretty fast at these!
Last month we went to a group class through Kaiser called Help Me Move and they taught us some exercises for him. My husband and I sit a couple feet apart on the floor facing each other and help him walk back and forth between us. I also place him in an all-fours position on his knees and press down gently on his hips, as well as rock him slightly. This apparently sends messages to his brain that the floor is solid under his knees. We do the same thing with him sitting on a small stool – pressing on his hips to let him know the seat is solid. Then I let him use my hands to help pull him to standing from the stool.
The exercises seem to be helping. He is getting much braver! He used to hold onto my hands or whatever furniture I propped him against with a death-grip while standing. Now he is brave enough to lunge towards the other parent in the walking game. The other day, I had him propped standing against the couch, and he turned around to grab the coffee table! Now when I sit him on a stool, he pops back up on his legs (holding my hand), and I’ve seen him pulls his knees up under himself momentarily in army-crawl.

We went back to the class this month. The instructors felt he had not made enough progress though, and recommended we start physical therapy. It sounds scary, but I’m actually happy about it. I’d rather work with him now, while it is still normal for him not to be walking, than wait until he is behind to act. We haven’t had our first appointment yet, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it helps.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to enjoy his still-babyness because I know I’ll be sad when it’s gone completely. I love cuddling with him while feeding him a bottle, rocking him when he wakes up crying, and bouncing him on my lap. And baby-talk is so cute!


At this time last year, we were knee-deep in colic. Colic is a very general term for often-unexplained crying that occurs for more than 3 hours a day (it doesn’t have to be in a row). At about 2 months, my baby started crying enough to qualify, and his fussiness carried over to feeding time. He would begin nursing, only to pull away and cry after 5 minutes (down from calm 30 minute sessions). When we went to the doctor she brushed it off, saying babies get more efficient as they get older. I called into the Kaiser Advice Line a couple of times, mentioned his colic, and they brushed it off too. “Aw,” they said, “hopefully that clears up by his next appointment at 4 months.”

The colic compounded my frustrations coping with life as a new mom. I stopped being able to take him for long walks because he would start crying before we got back. The naps and feedings both got much shorter and more frequent, never seeming to satisfy. I was heartbroken that my child was unhappy.
Often the cause for colic in babies remains unexplained, but I tried my darnedest to pinpoint it. Sometimes things breastfeeding mothers consume upset baby tummies, so I went off coffee for 3 days. No change. I stopped drinking milk. No change. One day I ate a bunch of pizza and his colic was much worse that evening. Hello! Cheese is milk. So I cut out all dairy. This seemed to help. Gas-X for babies provided some relief as well.

But we still dealt with a grumpy baby every day and a fussy one most evenings. The doctor recommended a video called Happiest Baby on the Block that offered the best calming advice I received. I will try to describe the technique here, but I highly recommend the video. It’s worth every penny! The technique basically consists of swaddling the baby, then cradling him stomach down in a football hold, so that your arm supports his body, your palm supports his head by cradling the side of his face, and his feet stick out between your elbow and side. Then you can gently jiggle him and sing or “shhhh” in his ear. It calmed my baby instantly. The best part was I had a free hand, and could sit, stand, or walk while holding him like this.
Despite the methods I found for soothing, I was at a loss for resolving the colic. I tried to call the lactation consultant a couple of times, but always got a voice mail. I never left a message because I was afraid they would call back while baby was sleeping. The doctor kept telling me over the phone not to worry about bringing him in unless he looked like he was losing weight or stopped pooping and peeing. Finally, I gave up and just coped.

Boy do I wish I had left that message and talked to lactation consultant! What I didn’t realize at the time was that my baby had stopped gaining weight and there WAS a problem. It took until our 4-month check up to find out. Devastated, I finally left a message at 4 months and talked with the lactation consultant. She turned out to be an amazing resource. Between her advice and an article I read at Le Leche League’s website, I am confident the problem all along was overproduction of breast milk. From about 2 months, I had been pumping copious quantities for the freezer in preparation for my return to work, completely unaware this could cause a problem.

I sat there pumping every day, hating the pump but thinking I was doing a good thing. Only later did all the pieces fall into place for me. Kaiser advice nurses had dubbed green poop normal, but the lactation consultant later advised that frothy green is a red flag for overproduction. Additionally, overproduction can irritate the bowels and cause a secondary lactose intolerance in the child (aka he was sensitive to me drinking milk) due to consuming too much lactose in the foremilk. Because I was producing more milk than he could drink, most of what he got when he nursed was just foremilk. Foremilk is lower in calories and fat than hindmilk, hence the halt in weight gain.

Tragic! I still tear up talking about it. The hard lesson I learned and share with other moms is to listen to your instincts as a mother. If you feel there is a problem, of course there is a chance you are worrying for nothing, but don’t let the doctors brush you off so easily. Push until you feel truly comfortable. My baby is still paying the price as he trails in size and development, always just on the lowest possible curve to still be in the “normal” range but far behind most babies in the neighborhood. He’ll be OK, but could be better if I had trusted myself.

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