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CHILDREN'S HEALTH

Infants

Colic is the name given to the sharp, intermittent abdominal pains or cramps that occur in babies whose digestive systems are still growing. All the internal organs as well as the rest of the physical body carry on developing outside the womb.

Colic is not a disease, but a pattern of excessive crying with no apparent cause. This frustrating and largely unexplained condition. Colic usually starts a few weeks after birth, peaks at about 6 weeks of age and usually improves markedly by your baby's third to fifth month.

Although colic can be extremely distressing for both you and your child, you can take comfort in the fact that it's not permanent. In fact, in a matter of weeks, when your baby is happier and sleeping better, you'll have weathered one of the first major challenges of parenthood.

Signs and symptoms

Although some people use the word colicky to describe any fussy baby, a truly colicky baby is an otherwise healthy, growing infant under 4 months of age with very specific signs and symptoms. These include:

  • Predictable, recurring crying episodes. A colicky baby cries around the same time each day, usually in the late afternoon or evening. Colic episodes may last anywhere from a few minutes to three hours or more on any given day, although babies with colic are likely to cry as long as two to three hours several days a week. The crying usually begins suddenly and for no clear reason. Your baby may have a bowel movement or pass gas near the end of the colic episode.

  • Activity. Many colicky babies draw their legs onto their abdomens, clench their fists, tense their stomachs, or thrash around and appear to be in pain during crying episodes.

  • Intense or inconsolable crying. Colic crying is intense, not weak or sickly. Your baby's face will likely be flushed, and he or she will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to comfort.

If your baby is premature and develops colic, the crying episodes will likely start about six to eight weeks after your original due date. Because premature infants tend to be quiet and sleepy at first, you may worry that your baby is developing a serious problem if he or she suddenly turns colicky. That's possible but not likely. It's more likely that your preemie is just becoming more mature — and that sometimes includes developing colic.

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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