You've heard about it and hope it doesn't happen to your baby. Colic. By definition, colic is a condition seen in infants younger than 3 months old marked by periods of inconsolable crying lasting for hours at a time for at least three weeks. It's hard on Baby and hard on parents, occurring in up to 40 percent of infants. “Babies can be sensitive and experience discomfort for various reasons,” says Jon E. Betts, M.D., of Old Harding Pediatric Associates. But before you decide your baby has colic, Betts advises you rule out constipation or other discomforts. “Constipation — characterized by firm stools rather than the frequency of stools — can cause pain and discomfort in infants,” says Betts. “However, many infants grunt, groan and turn red in the face while trying to have a bowel movement, and this is normal and not constipation if the end product is a soft stool,” he adds. Babies can experience discomfort for many reasons, including hunger, an imbalance in their tummy, fatigue, excessive stimulation, or being too cold or overheated. Why babies develop colic is unknown, but it has certain qualities that differ from other forms of crying:
- While all babies cry (often up to three hours a day), colicky babies tend to cry more frequently and intensely.
- Colic generally sets in between 2 and 4 weeks of age and resolves by 3 to 4 months of age.
- Colicky infants can cry throughout the day with it worsening throughout the day, peaking in evening hours.
- Babies with colic tend to pull up their legs, have distended bellies and gas.
Soothing a Colicky Baby
- Hold and rock your baby. Babies often like gentle, rhythmic motion.
- Lay your baby on his tummy over your knee or forearm. Pressure can help soothe an overactive tummy.
- Offer a pacifier.
- Swaddle snugly.
- White noise can comfort a colicky baby. Some parents suggest hair dryer noise, vacuum cleaners and clothes dryers. White noise apps are available, too.