Maybe It's Gas...
But what about the red face, the distended belly, the clenched fists, and the passing of gas that often accompany excessive crying? Don't they indicate that colic is caused by gas? Well, no. Air is always present in the colon, and studies have shown that colicky babies have no more gas than calm babies. "When the baby cries, he contracts his abdominal muscles, putting pressure on the colon," points out Dr. Barr. "The air has to go somewhere." Moreover, crying itself contributes to gassiness because the baby swallows air. That is not to say that babies can't get tummy aches -- merely that tummy aches don't account for colicky crying.
Unfortunately many doctors are unaware of these distinctions. Jill O'Sullivan, a new mother from Concord, Massachusetts, took her daughter, Anna, to the pediatrician because she was screaming 14 hours a day. "The pediatrician said it was just colic, but I knew Anna was in pain," says O'Sullivan. "She'd take a sip of milk, start screaming, and then go back to the bottle because she was really hungry, but that would make her start screaming again." After several doctor's visits, a frantic O'Sullivan demanded a referral to a specialist, who found blood in Anna's stool. The diagnosis: an allergy along with gastroesophageal reflux (GER). Now that Anna is on a special formula, says O'Sullivan, she's a different baby.
Anna is one of the less than 5 percent of babies whose excessive crying is due to disease. How can you tell the difference? Generally a baby with a physical ailment will cry constantly, whereas normal crying increases at the end of the day. Other signs are excessive vomiting, crying that coincides with feeding, and weight loss. Also, a colicky baby will have periods during which he's perfectly calm and content; a sick baby may not.