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Colic: Excessive Crying In The Young Infant

Colic:  Excessive Crying in the Young Infant

McKenzie Pediatrics 2007

What Is Colic?

Infantile colic is defined as excessive crying for more than 3 hours a day at least 3 days a week for 3 weeks or more in an otherwise healthy baby who is feeding and growing well. The crying must not be explained by hunger, pain, overheating, fatigue, or wetness.

Roughly one in five babies have colic, and it is perhaps the most frustrating problem faced by new parents. Contrary to widespread belief, a truly “colicky” baby is seldom suffering from gas pains, although every baby certainly has occasions of gas pain and bloating.

When Does Colic Occur?

The crying behavior usually appears around the time when the baby would be 41-44 weeks post-conception. In other words, a baby born at 40 weeks might first show their colicky nature by 1-4 weeks of age. The condition usually resolves, almost suddenly, by age 3 to 4 months.

Most colicky babies experience periods of crying for 1-3 hours once or twice a day, usually in the evening. During the rest of the day, the baby usually seems fine, though it is in the nature of colicky babies to be sensitive to stimuli. A small percentage of colicky babies are known as “hypersensory-sensitive”; these babies cry for what seems to be most of the day, all the while feeding and sleeping well.

What Causes Colic?

No one fully understands colic. We do know that more often than not, colic is a personality type, rather than a medical problem. Babies who are colicky are commonly seen to grow up to be very bright, and “right- brained” (artistic, creative, theatrical, and often talk and read very early). They also tend to become children who are described as “sensitive”, especially to such things as heat, cold, touch, pain, and to the fit of their clothing.

The presumption therefore is that colicky babies are thus similarly sensitive. They cry due to sensory overload. They cry more in the evening, suggesting that the crying is a release of emotion and frustration from the stimuli of the day. They often need to be swaddled. They often need to be rocked, walked, bounced, or other soothing repetitive movements. They usually enjoy car rides, the sound of a washer/dryer or dishwasher, and the sound of a vacuum cleaner.

Since colic is seldom related to gas, extra burping, gas medications, or special nipples usually won’t help. The baby often looks to parents as if it is having abdominal pain because its legs are drawn up – but a baby’s abdominal muscles tense up and its legs draw up during crying as well.

It is VERY important to realize that colic is not the result of poor parenting, so don’t blame yourself! However, if you are tense, your baby will pick up on that, and it may increase her time spent crying.

What Can We Do?

You will not be able to eliminate all of your baby’s crying. Every baby cries at times, with hunger, heat, cold, wetness, or gas. But some of the following suggestions might help to reduce the amount of time spent crying by a colicky baby:

Nothing Is Working. What Else Should We Consider?