Crying shame: How 'The Colic Industry' preys on exhausted new parents

Photo: Alamy
Photo: Alamy 

OPINION

Homeopathic calming drops. White noise recordings. Cranial osteopathy. Radical dietary regimes. Anti-colic bottles. Anti-colic wraps. Vibrating cots. Cradles on tripods. Lactose-free formula. Chinese medicine. Infant massage. Chiropractic treatments. Crying and yelling.

There are loads more thumpingly ineffectual treatments I tried to make my babies stop crying , a grab-bag of costly therapies that I was convinced would liberate me from the monotonous misery of caring for a colicky baby .

I did not have the money, time, or energy to be Googling, locating, and purchasing any of these treatments.  But I was that most vulnerable of creatures - a new parent - and if parting with 50 bucks for a bottle of infant probiotic powder meant the gas bill had to wait even longer than usual, well, you can't put a price on sleep, can you?

Actually, you can, according to a piranha tank of Insta-endorsements, advertising, and well-meaning word of mouth.

The most troubling aspect of last week's headline-grabbing photos of a Melbourne chiropractor treating a two week old infant was not the (questionable) safety of his adjustments, nor the baby's distress - newborn babies cry when a bamboo wipe touches their bottom - but the fact  that the parents of this baby were probably sleep-deprived husks, and that the chiropractic treatment they sought for their baby was probably just one of a retinue of treatments they would pursue.

I know exactly how those parents felt as they approached the chiropractor's office. I was them once.

They thought this guy would be the one who would fix the defective scream/sleep mechanism in their beloved baby. They probably even threw out their quarter-used bottle of gripe water, laughing at their naivety and saying to one another, "we just should've called this guy in the first place, as if flavoured water can fix a baby who probably just has a neck injury sustained during childbirth!"  If you want to see an otherwise rational and intelligent adult throwing money around like a Russian oligarch, give them a newborn with colic.

It's this giddy vulnerability that The Colic Industry preys on. The Colic Industry knows that adult brain function is severely compromised by sleep deprivation. The Colic Industry wants you to feel like your baby is improperly aligned, lactose intolerant, sensitive to spices, legumes and caffeine, not prepared for the harsh realities of post-womb life - but don't worry, there's a special shriek-activated lullaby night light for that (humidifying feature sold separately, aromatherapy feature also sold separately). Or perhaps The Colic Industry will convince you your baby is suffering a bacterial imbalance in the gut because you had a caesarean-section (you naughty thing!) and your baby will be forever physically and psychologically impaired because they missed the Contiki Tour of your cervix on their way out.

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As a former casualty of The Colic Industry, or Big Colic, I can with some confidence state the following: nothing but the passing of time will stop your baby crying. Nothing but time (and for me, sleep school and the sound advice of an excellent midwife) will help your baby sleep through the night.

The Colic Industry wants you to think that people who say "it's normal for babies to cry" and "give it time" are pitifully closed minded about alternative therapies. Their treatment is the one treatment that actually does work for ALL babies.

The Colic Industry also knows that you were hoping to go to Noosa for ten days in winter, and it wants you to funnel that money away from Jetstar and Novotel and into its own coffers.

The Colic Industry wants you to believe anything but the truth: that being born is a bit difficult, that adjusting to life earthside is fraught (I've been here 40 years and I'm still squinting in disbelief) and that newborns need to eat all day and all night. Sometimes their tummies get sore, but it's generally transient and harmless.

I have masses of sympathy for new parents. Three months sound-tracked by my youngest daughter's screams carved my face into a canvas of lines and wrinkles.

I know what it is to pin your hopes on chiropractic treatments and cranial osteopathy and draconian anti-life colic diets that eliminate your only remaining source of sensual pleasure, nice food.

But please, please, heed this advice, given in a spirit of love and empathy,by an idiot who's tried it all and has the bankruptcy files to prove it: put your wallet away.

Put your wallet away unless it's for airfares and cupcakes, the gluten and dairy ones. You'll thank me when you're lying on a sun-lounger in Queensland, removing from your handbag the extra chocolate croissant you lifted from the breakfast buffet that morning, and watching your (not screaming, smiling!) baby crawling across the sand.