"A baby cannot 'have' colic," pediatric gastroenterologist Dr. Bryan Vartabedian says in the first few pages of his new book, "Colic Solved: The essential guide to infant reflux and the care of your crying, difficult-to-soothe baby" (Ballantine Books, $13.95). Colic, he says, is a description, not a diagnosis or a disease.
He goes on to call colic "a five-letter defense mechanism of doctors who are either outdated, outwitted or just plain out of ideas" as to why your baby is crying all the time.
These days, doctors have a better idea as to why many of these babies are so irritable: reflux, the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus.
Vartabedian treats hundreds of screaming babies a year, so he brings years of experience in this specialty to the book. More important, he brings compassion: His daughter had acid reflux as a baby.
He peppers the book with his own experiences, as well as case studies of some of his patients. If your child has been diagnosed with "colic" or acid reflux, you will see yourself in the harried, worried parents, or you may see your child in the screaming, arched-back infants he describes.
The book is thorough, starting out with a brief primer on acid reflux, then a chapter on recognizing the signs of reflux in your baby. A chapter on the care and handling of your baby with this condition is invaluable for parents, with tips on feeding your baby (breast-feeding is best), burping (with illustrations showing how to do it) and, most important, sleep (belly is better, but conflicts with research on SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome).
The chapters on medications and testing may be a little too technical for some parents, but then again, if it's your child, you may be more willing to dig into the medical jargon and try to understand things.