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When you're a new mom or dad, it can be a huge challenge to parent a baby who's always cranky. Friends may say your baby is "colicky." What’s going on and how can you make it through this?

What Is Colic?

Colic is a bit of a mystery. The term applies to any healthy, well-fed infant who cries more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week, for more than 3 weeks. Here's what we know about it:

  • Colic is likely to start around age 2 weeks if your infant is full-term (or later if premature).
  • It almost always goes away on its own by 3 or 4 months.
  • Your baby's sex and birth order, and whether you breast- or bottle-feed, don’t affect it.
  • Kids who had colic as babies are no different from those who didn’t.

What Causes Colic?

Colic’s exact cause is unknown, and that's why there’s not a clear way to help it. Some theories of what’s behind it include:

  • A growing digestive system with muscles that often spasm
  • Gas
  • Hormones that cause stomach pain or a fussy mood
  • Oversensitivity or overstimulation by light, noise, etc.
  • A moody baby
  • A still-developing nervous system

Remember, there are many things that can seem like colic but aren’t. If you're concerned about your baby, your doctor can do a full exam to rule out a medical cause for why your baby cries and is fussy. She could be irritable because of:

  • An infection
  • Acid reflux or stomach problems
  • Pressure or inflammation of the brain and nervous system
  • Eye trouble, like a scratch or increased pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Injury to bones, muscles, or fingers

How to Treat Colic

Based on your baby's needs for colic, your doctor can help. You'll likely have to try one thing at a time to see if it calms her. If it doesn't in a few days, move on to another one.

You may find one you think works. Know that colic can get better on its own and you may just have to wait for the fussiness to improve on its own at 4 months or so.

Beware of "cures" that claim to work for all babies. There is no such thing. Here are some things to try to ease colic.