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"Could he have colic?" I asked my infant son's pediatrician
on a well-baby visit. My son Max cried often, slept little and nursed
constantly. I hadn't expected new parenthood to be easy, but I hadn't expected
it to be so hard, either.
"Well, the rule with colic is generally at least three hours of crying a day,
for at least three days a week without being soothed," his pediatrician
Max didn't fit those rules. He could be soothed but by breastfeeding every 20
minutes. And three hours of crying a day? I hadn't bothered to tally up the
hours. But I wanted it to be colic—because as nightmarish as it is to have a
colicky baby, at least colic has an endpoint, usually disappearing when the
baby is 3 to 4 months old.
In those early, miserable months, I scoured the Internet and
crowdsourced mom groups for answers.
Nothing seemed to calm his fussiness, his constant desire to nurse or his inability to string together more than a few hours of sleep. I was exhausted and frantic.
When someone recommended seeing an osteopath after hearing
about Max's difficult birth, we tried that.
"I can feel the will coming off of him," the osteopath
pronounced after examining Max. The night after his first osteopath visit, our
son miraculously slept for five consecutive hours. We didn't know how the doctor's
light touch could make our son sleep, but we were believers.
After that first visit, though, the treatments didn't seem
to do anything. That sweet stretch of sleep had apparently been a fluke.
We tried gripe water and ordered an expensive infant hammock
bed. We visited a homeopath and tried reflux meds.
But nothing seemed to calm his fussiness, his constant
desire to nurse or his inability to string together more than a few hours of
sleep. I was exhausted and frantic.
Next, I became convinced that my son was reacting to my
breast milk. I eliminated dairy, and then soy as well, but Max kept screeching.
As I got crazier from sleep deprivation and frustration, so
did my attempts to fix my son. We visited an applied kinesiologist that another
mom swore by. By using muscle testing, the kinesiologist had helped identify
her son's food sensitivities—and after eliminating those foods from her diet, her
son became a much happier baby. We loaded up our car with the foods and spices I
most often ate, and hauled them to a nearby town where the kinesiologist lived.
In her home office, as I held a squirming Max, the kinesiologist held each food
up to him, then wiggled her fingers as my husband and I looked on with wide
Many moms had stories like mine and Max's.
One by one, the kinesiologist told me which foods most
It was one of the strangest things I've ever seen, but I
felt strangely hopeful that this would be the bizarre solution to our son's
fussiness. As I converted my diet to one mostly consisting of wild rice, sweet
potatoes and eggs, Max did seem slightly less fussy. But the biggest thing that
changed was my weight, as it plummeted to a number I hadn't seen since my junior
year of high school.
Over time, I began incorporating more foods into my diet.
Max grew older and began eating solid food. His crying decreased as he became
mobile and more able to communicate with us.
As it turned out, the osteopath's diagnosis was closest to
what we'd slowly realize was the truth—we'd been blessed with a strong-willed
child. Max was what Dr. Sears refers to as a "high needs baby." He's a highly
sensitive child who found the world outside my uterus to be perplexing,
overwhelming and often unsatisfactory. With time, he slowly adjusted to life
outside the womb, a life where he might be cold or hungry or unheld.
I recently asked several of my mom friends if any of them
had babies who were extremely unhappy but didn't have colic. A surprising
number of them identified. A few said their baby had either reflux or food
allergies that were the culprits of their distress. But many of the moms had
stories like mine and Max's; they'd had unhappy babies who slowly morphed into sensitive,
particular and determined children.
I see now that my son didn't need to be fixed. He just needed