A study published in February 2012 of mothers and their young babies by neurologists at the University of California, San Francisco, has shown that mothers who suffer migraine headaches are more than twice as likely to have babies with colic than mothers without the history of migraines.
This work raises a question of whether colic may be an early symptom of migraines.
Colic, or excessive crying in an otherwise healthy infant, has long been associated with gastrointestinal problems–presumably caused by something the baby ate. However, despite more than 50 years of research, no definitive link has been proven between infant colic and gastrointestinal problems. Babies who are fed solely breast milk are as likely to have colic as those fed formula milk, and given colicky babies medication for this does not help.
In this study 154 new mothers brought their infants to the paediatrician for routine checkups at 2 months, the age when colicky crying typically peaks. The mothers were surveyed about the babies crying patterns and the own history of migraine, and those responses were analysed to make sure the reported crying did indeed fit the clinical definition of colic.
Mothers who suffered migraines were found to be 2 1/2 times more likely to have colicky babies. Overall, 29% of infants whose mothers had migraines had colic compared to 11% of babies whose mothers did not have migraines.
Experts believe colic may be an early manifestation of a set of conditions known as childhood periodic syndromes, believed to be a precursor to migraine headaches in later life.
Babies with colic may be more sensitive to stimuli in the environment, just as migraine sufferers are. They may have more difficulty coping with the onslaught of new stimuli after birth as they are thrust from the dark, warm, muffled life inside the womb into a world that is bright, cold, noisy and filled with touchy hands and bouncy knees.
The study group plans to follow this group of colicky babies over the course of their childhood to see if they develop other childhood periodic syndromes, such as abdominal migraine.