The Colic-Depression Link

Dr. Ronald J. Peterson, M.D., of Haugen and Associates, PA, Obstetrics and Gynecology in Minneapolis believes postpartum depression can be greatly affected by the ". . . situational component." He says, "New circumstances and a lack of support can impact how a mother adjusts. Very much so. We look for it right away in the hospital, because every woman is affected to some degree from the decrease in hormone levels. It can be absolutely profound. . . . We try to talk it through first, but antidepressants are effective and are sometimes necessary. They may be an issue in breastfeeding, though."

Separating the treatment of colic in a baby and postpartum depression in a mother can be difficult, says Eric Sommerman, Ph.D., R.S. Hom., of Homeopathic Practitioners, Plymouth. "There's a big cultural piece connected to how society today is so mobile and how a mother who stays at home can get cut off from mainstream culture. . . . If a woman is living far from family and isn't getting nurtured and supported by the community, if she's really isolated at a time she needs the most help, it's likely that it would be difficult for her get bonded right away and the baby could have difficulty nursing, assimilating and digesting very well, " Sommerman explains. "And there's the hormonal piece. Homeopathy balances and strengthens the system so there aren't so many out-of-proportion reactions. Mothers and babies often need the same remedy, and when you treat the mother with homeopathy, it goes right to the baby in breast milk. . . . There are a few radical treatments for colic that we can give them directly dissolved in water, but it's more common to give a remedy to the mother and have both the postpartum depression and colic go away."

Pediatric Services' Dr. James D. McLeod, M.D., of Minneapolis, echoes the need for supporting new mothers when treating colic in infants. "It's important to be real supportive of moms, let them know that it does get better. We don't know exactly what causes it, we feel it's probably related to stomach ache, gas, and cramps, digestive kinds of things that are excessive in that particular baby. And it has a good prognosis, it usually gets better after about two months. . . . Sometimes we try medication. I don't like to do that too much . . . but sometimes I think it can help the mom feel like she's doing something. And I think it does help some babies. Sometimes adjusting the feeding, changing formula, or restricting mom's diet if she's breastfeeding [can help]. And we have to be alert for other things, it could be a real medical problem that's making that particular baby fussy. . . . But most of the time it turns out to be a hyperactive bowel. . . . It's mostly about being patient for the first few months, and then the change can be dramatic and they often turn out to be the happiest babies of all in the long run. . . . It's important to define colic, though, and colic really is in the eye of the beholder. It can just be a baby that's fussier than the parents expected."

Charles Rogers, M.D., of Minneapolis, takes this thinking a step further: "I don't think colic is much of an entity. I haven't called a baby colicky in years. There's a natural variant in dealing with a child with more crying than other children. When I run into a kid fussing and crying a lot, I don't think diet does much. . . . Sometimes, switching from a milk to soy formula helps. . . . most of the time this is 'guess what I'm thinking' and your job is to figure out what the baby wants. Colic is a waste-basket term, a matter of expectation . . . I'm more likely to find gastro-esophageal reflux and heartburn."

Dr. Colleen Hathaway, D.C., maintains that she and the other doctors at IN8 Chiropractic Clinic of St. Paul "assess [and] take care of the nervous system so the body can function better. . . . To 'adjust' is to correct interference in the spine with gentle, specific force. In the process of adjustment, when the whole body is functioning the way it should, the colic goes away. In chiropractic care we just want to get the whole nervous system running better. And when it is, it can impact dramatically things like postpartum depression and colic."

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