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What Is Colic?

Colic in infants frequently generates anxiety in new parents. First described in biblical times, Dr. Morris A. Wessel defined colic in 1954 as "excessive" crying lasting more than three hours a day, more than three days per week, and for more than three consecutive weeks. These children are otherwise well, and their crying is not due to either pain or hunger. This inordinate crying starts at about 2 weeks of age, hits a maximum in intensity at about 6-8 weeks of age, and then gradually diminishes with resolution by 16 weeks of age. Many developmental specialists point out that premature babies will follow this same pattern and also start their colicky experience about two weeks after their due date (regardless of actual date of birth). Studies have indicated that 10%-25% of healthy newborns may experience colic.

What Are Causes of Colic?

The proposed causes of colic tend to focus on the immaturity of the child's intestinal tract and/or nervous system. Colic is an equal opportunity tormentor. Symptoms show no predilection with respect to racial, ethnic, socioeconomic group, or gender. While much research has been focused on the topic, no consistent explanation as to cause has yet been defined. Rather, most specialists hypothesize the cause to be multifactorial -- a combination of genetic predisposition, neurodevelopmental immaturity, and possibly influenced by behavioral and social/cultural aspects.

What Are Risk Factors for Colic?

Many child-care specialists believe colic is a relatively common and normal infant behavior pattern. It may tend to occur more commonly in firstborn children. Some believe that the normal anxiety of being a first-time parent may be a predisposing factor. These developmental behavioral specialists propose the infant can sense their parent's apprehension via body language, pitch/tone/volume of voice, and a more tense or stiff technique when handling their newborn.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/21/2017

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10 Tips for Soothing a Colicky Baby

About 10%-25% of newborns will suffer from colic. Colic is defined as excessive crying in babies that lasts more than three hours each day, for more than three days a week, and for more than three weeks.

Get 10 tips for soothing your crying baby.

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Colic »

Colic is commonly described as a behavioral syndrome characterized by excessive, paroxysmal crying. Colic is most likely to occur in the evenings, and it occurs without any identifiable cause.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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