Introduction and rationale:
Clinical experience with infants presenting with feeding difficulties and increasing
referrals of infants with colic led to this study. There is uncertainty whether the speechlanguage
therapist should play a role in the management of this condition. Despite
extensive clinical research into the multiple factors related to the condition, the etiology
of infantile colic has not yet been established. Suck- swallow-breathing coordination
(SSBC), which is key to successful feeding, has not yet been investigated as a factor in
Goals: The goal of the study was to give a comprehensive description of the symptoms
and the SSBC of a group of young infants with colic. Sub-goal 1 was to compile a list of
symptoms based on a description by parents of infants with infantile colic, which could
be used to compare symptoms of a group of infants with the condition to a group without
the condition. Sub-goal 2 was to describe SSBC, in a group of infants with the condition,
by conducting a clinical assessment. Sub-goal 3 was to compare SSBC in a group of
infants with colic to a group without the condition of the same age.
Method: A descriptive survey design and interview guide was used in Phase 1. The
parents of 60 infants with colic participated in this study. A correlation research design
(Phase 2) and the List of symptoms for Infantile Colic (compiled in Phase 1) as well as
the Assessment Protocol for SSBC (compiled in Phase 2) were used. A new research
group of 50 participants with infantile colic and a control group of 28 participants with
the condition, whose ages correlated with those of the research group, was selected. An
interview was conducted with the parents of all participants. SSBC was clinically
assessed in all the participants.
Results: Parental description of infantile colic resulted in a comprehensive list of 27
symptoms. Audible swallowing of air and a feeding duration of more than 20 minutes
were described more by parents than found in the literature. Statistically significant
differences were found when the postural control and SSBC of the research group were
compared with the control group. The difficulties with SSBC differed across the age
categories of the participants.
Conclusion: The study indicated that infantile colic is related to a disturbance in postural
control and components of SSBC, and infants with the condition have subtle feeding difficulties. The speech-language therapist therefore has a role to play in the clinical
assessment of infantile colic and the development of treatment strategies.