Colic

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For many parents, there is nothing more stressful than listening to an inconsolably crying newborn. Colic generally leads to long stretches of such crying. It can be a very difficult for parents, friends, and family who are already dealing with one of the most rewarding but potentially stressful experiences in life, a new baby at home.

Colic facts

  • Colic is self-limited and episodic.
  • Overfeeding, undiluted juices, food allergies, and emotional stress can aggravate colic.
  • It is important for a baby with new abdominal pain and crying to be evaluated by a doctor who can exclude other more serious conditions.
  • Don't give medications or other treatments to an infant unless they've been approved by the child's medical practitioner.

What is colic?

Infantile colic has been around for a long time. In 1954, Dr. Morris Wessel, a well-known New Haven pediatrician, defined an infant with colic as "one who, otherwise healthy and well-fed, had paroxysms of irritability, fussing, or crying lasting for a total of three hours a day and occurring on more than three days in any one week for a period of three weeks." It is also important to remember that not all fussy babies suffer from colic. Most infants normally cry two to three hours per day, but this is usually spread out during the 24-hour period.

What are colic symptoms and signs in babies?

The crying or fussing most frequently begins suddenly and often after a feeding. The cry is loud and continuous, and the spells last from one to four hours. The baby's face often gets flushed or red. The belly is sometimes distended or prominent, the legs alternating between flexed and extended straight out; the feet are often cold and the hands clenched. The episodes, while they can occur at any time of the day or night, typically begin in the late afternoon or early evening, just when parents or caregivers are most exhausted. There are some babies who are more prone to infantile colic than others. It is generally believed that if one or both parents were colicky, their baby is more at risk. Infantile colic typically begins at about 2 to 3 weeks of age, reaches its peak at 2 months, begins to subside by 3 months, and is gone by 3½ to 4 months of age. But the frustrating fact remains that although one in four babies has colic and much research has been done on the topic, there is no one proven cause of colic. In some studies, no discernible cause was found for one-quarter of those babies who suffered from colicky episodes. This reality is very frustrating for most parents.

It is certainly known that amongst all colicky babies, there are factors that may worsen the colic symptoms:

  1. Overfeeding in an attempt to lessen the crying
  2. Feeding certain foods, especially those with high sugar content (for example, undiluted juices), may increase the amount of gas in the intestine and worsen the situation
  3. The presence of excessive anger, anxiety, fear, or excitement in the household
  4. A multitude of other factors as yet unknown
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/30/2014

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