What is colic - Woodmam

The top ten ancient theories about colic

The Colic Clues: Ten universal facts about colic

Today’s top five colic theories

The sound of a crying baby is just about the most disturbing, demanding, shattering noise we can hear. In the baby’s crying there is no future or past, only now. There is no appeasement, no negotiations possible, no reasonableness.

Sheila Kitzinger, The Crying Baby

Waaaa … waaaa … waaaaaa … WAAAA​AAAAA​AAAAA​AAAAA​!!!!!​!!! The word infant derives from Latin and means “without a voice.” However, many colicky babies wail so powerfully that their parents think a better name for them would be mega-fants or rant-fants!

There’s no doubt that colicky infants can cry louder and longer than any adult. We would drop from exhaustion after five minutes of full-out screaming, but these little cuties can go and go, with the tenacity of the Energizer bunny.

The word colic derives from the Greek word kolikos, meaning “large intestine or colon.” In ancient Greece, parents believed that intestinal pain caused their babies’ crying. (While a gas twinge may start a baby’s screaming fit, at other times these very same babies have gas and noisy stomachs yet they don’t even make a peep. More on this in Chapter 4.)

All babies have short periods of crying that usually last for a few minutes, totaling about a half hour a day. These babies settle quickly once fed, picked up, or carried. However, once colicky babies start their frantic screaming, they can yell, on and off, for hours.

How Can You Tell If Your Baby Has Colic?

In 1962, Dr. T. Berry Brazelton asked eighty-two new mothers to record how much their normal, healthy infants cried each day during their first three months of life.

The results of this study are shown in the figure below. When Dr. Brazelton did the math, he discovered that at two weeks of age, twenty-five percent of the babies cried for more than two hours each day. By six weeks, twenty-five percent cried for more than three hours each day. Reassuringly, he found that by three months almost all had recovered from their fussy period and few cried more than one hour a day. (Persistent crying tends to vanish after three months which is why some doctors refer to it as “three-month” colic.)

When a baby is brought to me because of crying fits, I first ask about the parents’ family history and the baby’s birth, feeding habits, and general behavior. Next I examine the baby to make sure she’s healthy and thriving. Once I’m sure that the baby is well, I consider if her crying pattern fits the “Rule of Threes,” the formal medical definition of colic first formulated by Dr. Morris Wessel, a private pediatrician from Connecticut.

The “Rule of Threes” states that a baby has colic if she cries at least: three hours a day … three days a week … three weeks in a row.

Some doctors call babies colicky even if they don’t fit the “Rule of Threes” but still frequently scream uncontrollably for no obvious reason.

Some parents in my practice also think that the “Rule of Threes” should be revised. They say the true definition of colic is when a baby cries so much her poor mom needs three nannies, three margaritas, and … six hands! (Okay, there’s an exception to every rule.)

Parents often ask me if there’s a way to predict which babies will have colic. While many doctors have tried to find a pattern to this problem, no consistent association has been found between colic and a baby’s gender, prematurity, birth order, or their parents’ age, income, or education. Colic can happen to anybody’s baby. It is truly an equal-opportunity parental nightmare!
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