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Colic - Topic Overview

What is colic?

All babies cry, but sometimes a baby will cry for hours at a time, no matter what you do. This extreme type of crying in a baby between 3 weeks and 3 months of age is called colic. Although it is upsetting for parents and caregivers, colic is normal for some babies.

Doctors usually diagnose colic when a healthy baby cries more than expected: more than 3 hours a day more than 3 days a week for at least 3 weeks in a row. Colic is usually worst when babies are around 6 to 8 weeks of age and goes away on its own between 8 and 14 weeks of age.

It is common to feel scared, upset, or frustrated when you cannot get your baby to stop crying. But remember that colic is normal—and temporary. Your baby will grow out of it.

What causes colic?

Doctors are not sure what causes colic, but it may be the result of a baby's sensitive temperament and an immature nervous system. These things may make a baby cry easily and have trouble stopping. As babies grow and develop, they are better able to control their crying.

Colic is not related to health conditions, such as digestion problems. But having gas in the belly can make crying worse.

Colic is not caused by pain or illness. If you think your baby is crying because he or she is hurt or sick, call your doctor.

Colic is not your fault or your baby's fault. It doesn't mean that you are a bad parent or that anything is wrong with your baby.

What are the symptoms?

Most babies will cry less when they are held, fed, and given attention. These things may not work for babies who have colic. When they are crying, they may clench their fists and stiffen their stomach and legs. Some babies arch their back, while others pull up their legs to their stomach.

Vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or blood or mucus in the stool is not a symptom of colic. If your baby has any of these symptoms, he or she needs to be checked by a doctor.

How is colic diagnosed?

If you are worried about your baby's crying, see your doctor or talk about it at your baby's next routine checkup. To make sure that crying is colic, your doctor may do a physical exam and ask you about your baby's past health, what comforting techniques you have tried, and whether you have noticed any other symptoms. You may also be asked about how the crying affects you and to show how you feed and burp your baby. Your doctor may suggest that you keep track of when and how often your baby cries.

If your baby has any symptoms that worry you, such as vomiting or a fever, your doctor may do lab tests or X-rays to find out what is causing them.

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