Handling Baby's Colic

Is It Colic or Just Normal Crying?

Normal

Pattern: Cries usually related to a need (to be fed, held, changed, etc).

Timing: No particular pattern throughout the day and night.

Intensity: May sound distressed at times but easily consoled.

Soothing Techniques: Tends to like "typical" baby things like cuddling, being held, or being rocked.

Colic

Pattern: Cries are seemingly "unprovoked."

Timing: Tends to peak in the evening.

Intensity: Sounds like a painful cry that is difficult to console.

Soothing Techniques: Has to have very specific circumstances to calm down.

When Should You Call the Doctor?

Since you'll be seeing your pediatrician at least once or twice during the first month or two for routine checkups, this is the perfect time to mention your concerns about your baby's crying. It's helpful for you to discuss coping strategies with your doctor to rule out more serious conditions that can cause babies to cry excessively.

Frequent vomiting, in association with painful crying, can be indicative of gastroesophageal reflux, and in this instance, antacid medicines can be beneficial. Also, bright green vomiting with colicky crying can indicate a serious intestinal blockage requiring immediate medical attention. Babies with milk allergies tend to be fussy, presumably due to stomach pain from drinking formula made from cow's milk or nursing from a mom who drinks cow's milk, but this is rarely the only symptom. Typically, these babies will also have other symptoms, such as blood or mucus in their stools and frequent vomiting after feedings. Finally, fever, refusal to eat, and poor weight gain are never consistent with colic and always warrant a call to the doctor.

Sara DuMond, MD, is a pediatrician in Mooresville, North Carolina, and the mother of two children.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, December 2006.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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