Most mothers and fathers immediately long to soothe their baby when he or she is crying. This is an incredibly natural and healthy response, as it’s ingrained in most parents to nurture and care for their child’s needs.
However, when is crying just crying (a way for the child to communicate their needs, desires, and struggles), and when is crying a symptom of something more?
Many babies suffer with colic – a common and uncomfortable condition signified by severe, fluctuating abdominal pain, typically caused by gas, overfeeding, an immature immune system, lactose intolerance, or an intestinal obstruction.
This painful condition causes the baby to cry and wail for long periods each day, receiving little to no comfort in any stimulation, play or nurturing the parents attempt to give.
As What To Expect explains:
Colic is not a disease or diagnosis but a combination of baffling behaviors. It’s really just a catch-all term for problem crying in otherwise healthy babies — the problem being, there’s no solution to it besides the passing of time. And it’s common, occurring in one in five infants. Episodes can go on for hours at a time, sometimes late into the night. Worst of all, try as you might — and try you will — it’s extremely difficult to calm a colicky baby, which only compounds your own frustration, worry and exhaustion.
However, although the troubling condition tends to get better over time, recent research suggests there may be other factors keeping the child in a colicky state.
According to Medical News Today:
Researchers from Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) found that infants of mothers who reported low relationship happiness were more likely to have colic than infants of mothers who reported happier relationships.
Furthermore, the team found that mothers who reported receiving greater social support from their partners, friends, or family were less likely to have a baby with colic.
Medical News Today went on to say that “Kjerulff and team reached their findings by assessing the data of 3,006 women aged between 18 and 35 years who were a part of Penn State’s First Baby Study. All women had given birth to their first child between January 2009 and April 2011.
As part of the study, mothers were required to report how happy they were with their partner, how much social support they received from their partner, and the level of social support they received from family members and friends.
Around 11.6 percent of new mothers reported that their infant had colic.”
“The researchers found that the happier mothers were in their relationship during and after pregnancy, the less likely they were to have an infant with colic. This finding remained even after accounting for postpartum depression.
“Additionally, the risk of colic was lower for infants of mothers who reported greater social support from their partners. In particular, the team found that the more partners helped with infant care, and the greater a partners’ love and affection for the baby, the lower their infant’s colic risk.
Mothers who reporting receiving greater social support from family and friends also had infants with lower risk of colic.”
Interestingly enough, the researchers found that, among all the participants, the infants that were at lowest risk of colic belonged to single mothers. The researchers theorized that this was due to the many social support systems the single moms had.
This shocking bit of evidence shows that, just because someone is in a relationship, doesn’t mean they are happy. In fact, the mother’s unhappiness may be having an extremely unpleasant effect on their child’s well-being.
However, there is one element that can help mothers overcome this battle. “Love makes a difference,” Kjerulff stated.
It is theorized that the more social support a mother can attain (such as through a spouse, friends, coworkers, siblings, parents, etc.), the happier and less stressed she will become. In turn, this change will allow the infant to de-stress, and to ultimately reduce their symptoms of colic.
“Love makes a difference,” Kjerulff stated. “If you don’t have a partner [or even if you do], you can still have lots of social support, lots of love, and lots of happy relationships, and all of that’s going to be better for the baby.”