Dr. Bryan Vartabedian, pediatric gastroenterologist at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, is author of the book Colic Solved: The Essential Guide to Infant Reflux and the Care of Your Crying, Difficult-to-Soothe Baby published by Ballantine/Random House in 2007. HealthCentral.com talks to him about his book and what is has for parents of infants and children with acid reflux.
HC: Explain your motivation for writing this book.
BV: After evaluating hundreds of babies who were referred with the worst cases of "colic," I recognized that most of them had explainable causes for their irritability. I felt that I could write a book that helps parents advocate for their babies and themselves.
HC: I understand that both of your children had acid reflux. Was this a motivating factor in getting the word out?
BV: Absolutely. The blinding fatigue that a parent experiences with an inconsolable baby is a very powerful thing and it definitely helped motivate me.
HC: According to your book, "colic" is a catchall phrase that doctors use to describe infants with excessive crying and irritability. Can you explain why you think the term is outdated?
BV: Things have changed quite a bit since 1954 when colic as a condition was first described. Back then very little was known about why babies do what they do. Consequently, a description of behavior that was felt to represent a disease state was a welcome addition to every pediatrician's toolbox.
But medical science has advanced to the point where words such as colic may not have much meaning. Technology has changed dramatically over the past several years. Our ability to see and understand what's happening inside of the screaming baby has allowed us to recognize that many babies are actually suffering with treatable conditions such as acid reflux and milk allergy.
HC: What should parents say to the pediatrician who tells them their baby has colic?
BV: In answering this question you have to understand that recognizing the role of acid reflux disease in infant irritability is still a relatively new concept. Based on where your baby receives care, you may need to be sure that your doctor is considering all options when treating your baby. If the term colic is used for diagnosing your baby, a flag should go up in your head. You as a parent need to advocate for your baby and ask a few questions. Colic Solved will help you do that.
Stepping back from the title, Colic Solved is really about parent empowerment. We're in the information age -- parents want to know all about their children's problems, how to get help and what to expect. The days of the paternalistic "doctor-dominated" relationship are over. "Just ask your doctor" is no longer the mode of operation.
The debate surrounding this book is as much about the role parents should play in their children's health as it is about colic. The chapter on how to handle your doctor is a good example.
HC: How has your book been received among other pediatricians?
BV: Colic Solved hasn't settled well with everyone who's read it. Some are bothered by my connection between "colic" and acid reflux. Others still are clinging desperately to the concept of a behavioral disease state early in infancy. My book is based on my experience with thousands of screaming babies. Irrespective of whether or not it changes anyone's mind, I hope that it creates discussion on the issue of early infant irritability and opens up awareness to treatable conditions.
HC: How does Colic Solved differ from other parenting books? You mention Baby Whisperer, Happiest Baby on the Block, and the Baby Wise books.
BV: Every baby should be cuddled, swaddled and whispered to as these books describe. While these techniques may seem like the newfangled answer to all of your baby's problems, these maneuvers have been used for millennia. All babies will fuss from time to time and this is where these books do parents a great service. It gives parents some sense of control.
Colic Solved is different because it suggests that the profound irritability seen in some babies may have a treatable cause. The wastebasket diagnosis of "colic" may no longer be appropriate in many of these infants. It's always better to treat the source of the problem before resorting to folksy pacifying measures.
It's important to make clear that this book isn't a do-it-yourself-fix-your-baby-overnight book. Most cases of reflux can't be fixed in "three easy steps." Many cases of more involved acid reflux disease need the help of a physician. So Colic Solved is not a how to but rather a what to book. It will tell you what to do to recognize reflux and what to do to get your baby help. It will help parents advocate for their screaming babies by helping them understand reflux and how it may play into their baby's situation. Colic Solved is written in plain English so that every parent can understand why their baby may be crying.
Colic Solved is available at Amazon.com. Click here to purchase the book.
See other books written by our experts:
Acid Reflux in Infants and Children by Tracy Davenport
The Reflux Book by Beth Anderson-Pulsifer