The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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As a paranoid new mom, I spent the first days after Quinn's birth under self-imposed house arrest. Actually taking my girl out into the world seemed unbelievably stressful. But after a couple of weeks cooped up with the "colic queen," I had to get out. Our maiden voyage would be a trip to the grocery store.
Although my husband was willing to help, I was determined to handle the excursion alone. I planned to pop Quinn into her baby carrier/car seat, then head out, hoping for the best. But I soon realized that a simple trip to the store was even harder than I'd imagined.
The standard, yet somewhat arbitrary, definition of colic is a total of three hours or more a day of irritability, fussiness or crying on more than three days a week for more than three weeks.
"Like height in adults, babies fall along a continuum," says Ron Barr, M.D.C.M., F.R.C.P.C., an infant-behavior researcher and professor of pediatrics at the University of British Columbia. "Some cry a little and some cry a lot. It doesn't mean there's something wrong with the baby."
The probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri, used as a dietary supplement by adults to soothe intestinal disorders, appears to reduce colic when given in drops to breastfed infants. In a recent study, 95 percent of babies given the probiotic cried less, compared with only 7 percent of babies who received simethicone, a medication commonly used to treat gas. The researchers defined colic as more than three hours of crying on more than three days per week.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should think carefully before taking St. John's wort. Commonly used to treat depression, the herb can interfere with some medications prescribed during pregnancy, including antidepressants and certain painkillers. Animal studies also link the herb to lower birth weight. Finally, studies show that breastfed infants can experience drowsiness or colic when their mothers take St. John's wort.
Scalp and skin irritations
One in three women with inconsolable babies reports feeling depressed, says research on nearly 3,000 new moms. "I see a lot of fussy babies," says researcher Pamela High, M.D., a clinical professor of pediatrics at Brown Medical School in Providence, R.I., "and the mothers are worried, anxious, tired and depressed." High's study is the first to establish a link between colic and postpartum depression in a demographically diverse group of women. She advises a new mom to recruit others to help, and to set aside time every day to be off-duty.