Article courtesy of the Mayo Clinic
All babies cry. But some babies cry more than others do. And a few babies — although they’re healthy, well-fed and well cared for — seem to cry inconsolably. If your baby cries about the same time each day and nothing you do seems to comfort him or her, your baby may have colic.
Colic is often defined as crying more than three hours a day, three days a week for more than three weeks in an otherwise well-fed, healthy baby. This frustrating and largely unexplained condition usually starts a few weeks after birth and often improves by age 3 months.
Colic can be distressing for both you and your baby. But take comfort in the fact that it’s not permanent. In fact, in a matter of weeks or months — when your baby is happier and sleeping better — you’ll have weathered one of the first major challenges of parenthood.
A fussy baby doesn’t necessarily have colic. In an otherwise healthy, well-fed baby, signs of colic include:
Predictable crying episodes. A baby who has colic often cries about the same time every day, usually in the late afternoon or evening. Colic episodes may last anywhere from a few minutes to three hours or more on any given day. The crying usually begins suddenly and for no clear reason. Your baby may have a bowel movement or pass gas near the end of the colic episode.
Intense or inconsolable crying. Colic crying is intense. Your baby’s face will likely be flushed, and he or she will be extremely difficult — if not impossible — to comfort.
Posture changes. Curled up legs, clenched fists and tensed abdominal muscles are common during colic episodes.
Colic may affect up to about 25 percent of babies. Colic usually starts a few weeks after birth and often improves by age 3 months. Although a few babies struggle with colic for months longer, colic ends by age 9 months for 90 percent of babies.
No one really knows what causes colic. Researchers have explored a number of possibilities, including allergies, lactose intolerance, an immature digestive system, maternal anxiety, and differences in the way a baby is fed or comforted. Yet it’s still unclear why some babies have colic and others don’t.
Infants of mothers who smoke during pregnancy or after delivery have twice the risk of developing colic.
Many other theories about what makes a child more susceptible to colic have been proposed, but none seem to hold true. Colic doesn’t occur more often among firstborns or formula-fed babies. A breast-feeding mother’s diet isn’t likely to trigger colic. And girls and boys — no matter what their birth order or how they’re fed — experience colic in similar numbers.