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Colic - What to Expect

Similarities and differences between normal crying and colic

Because infants cry more in their first 3 months than at any other time in their lives, it is often difficult to tell the difference between colic and expected crying behavior. Both types of crying gradually increase, peaking at about 6 to 8 weeks of age. Most crying episodes occur in the late afternoon and evening hours, although the timing may vary. The length and intensity of crying episodes also may change from one day to the next.

The difference between colic and normal crying behavior is related to the frequency, duration, and intensity of crying. Babies with colic typically cry for more than 3 hours a day more than 3 days a week for at least 3 weeks in a row. A colicky baby cries very loudly, sometimes piercingly, and often continuously. During a colic episode, babies may clench their fists and stiffen their stomach and legs. Some babies arch their backs, and others pull up their legs to their stomachs.

Most babies with typical crying behavior are soothed and will cry less when they are held, fed, and given attention. But babies with colic are not easily soothed after they start crying. And their episodes typically last longer than expected.

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.

Other problems that can cause crying

By definition, colic is not caused by pain or discomfort. Most likely, your baby's crying is normal. But health problems or injuries can cause a baby to cry or make a colicky baby's crying worse.

Learn ways to tell the difference between normal colic and signs of a medical problem. For example, a baby may cry more when he or she has a digestion problem such as milk protein intolerance or milk sugar intolerance. Some mothers also say they notice their baby's crying gets worse after they have had certain foods or drinks and then breast-feed. Some foods may affect breast milk, such as garlic, broccoli, fresh fruits, and caffeine. They may contribute to intestinal gas or other digestive problems in the baby.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: February 25, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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