Whatever the etiology of colic in infancy, and multiple causes seem most likely, there is little doubt that emotional factors enter the picture. Whether these constitute one of the causes of colic on only intensify it, is at present impossible to determine.
Some investigators have found the colicky infant to be hypertonic, tense, fussy, unhappy even before the onset of specific symptoms. McGee in 1943 suggested that fetal hiccoughs were common in babies who later developed colic.
Spock has emphasized that fatigue of the infant in late afternoon may be a factor, and Gesell has pointed out that there is heightened tension and increased irritability in infants, starting at about 4 weeks of age and continuing to 2 on 3 months, as evidence by increased appetite, more frequent crying, and greaten difficulty in getting to sleep.
Wessel and others have found family tensions greater and more frequent where there are colicky babies than where the infants are contented.
The mother of the infant with colic has been described as tense, anxious, uncertain, inconsistent in her handling of the baby and often rejecting him. The psychiatrist's explanation of the reasons for this personality includes early rejection of the baby, rivalry with infant on husband, conflicts about accepting the feminine or maternal role and her dependency needs.
A simpler explanation would seem to be that as it is the mother who first responds to the infant's needs, she feels frustrated and concerned if she is unable to satisfy them. Feeding is the focus of the first emotional relationship between the mother and child, and if this does not go well, the mother may become very upset.
- Copyright © 1956 by the American Academy of Pediatrics