Updated article : October, 2023.
An intensely crying baby hits parents square in the heart as they try as hard as possible to console them. But do you really know what’s wrong with your baby?
While I can’t list all the possible reasons, I will try to explain to you why and the ways you can try to improve the situation.
In this article:
Your baby can cry because they’re hungry, tired, cold, want to be picked up. They can strongly react to their environment, want to be vertical, maybe want your body’s warmth pressed against your breast. They’re discomforted by a burp or gas, etc. But what about colic? True colic?
Colic was first defined in 1954 (and 2016 with FGIDs Rome IV). This condition affects 30% to 40% of infants. It’s described clinically as a cramp, spasm, or bloating that can happen any time, day or night, crying time peaks at 6:00 pm to 12:00 pm and mostly in children under five months of age. The peak period is around the 5th or 6th week postnatal, and a baby can cry up to 240 minutes a day. However, according to the Rome 2023 criteria, the duration of crying is no longer taken into criteria when identifying or diagnosing colic. Instead, we refer to recurrent, prolonged periods of crying or irritability in the infant, without any presence of growth disturbance, fever or illness. A notable reduction takes place after 8–12 weeks. This symptom is a response to intra-abdominal pain and an immature gastrointestinal system which has difficulty digesting, absorbing and assimilating ingested milk. The baby’s intestinal “microbiota” state can also cause discomfort symptoms (see the entry dealing with microbiota for more information).
Also, we now know that around six to eight weeks a baby’s crying is often due to the accelerated development of their brain (neurodevelopment) and adaptation to their environment. Your baby is normal and healthy!
True colic is characterised by sudden intense crying, from one to three times a day for at least three out of seven days. There should be no weight gain decrement, and the baby shouldn’t have a fever or illness. The colic is often at the same time, frequently at the end of the afternoon and evening when parents are tired after their day. On average, the attacks last from 20 minutes to three hours, accompanied by shorter, calmer breaks.
True colic often starts around the third week after birth and slowly diminishes starting from month two and will disappear around three and a half months. This is when the baby’s brain and digestive system will have matured. Crying for more than three hours and at least three times a week is normal for babies, even if it’s hard to handle for parents. They don’t like seeing their baby cry like that. Colic is present in many babies, both breastfed and formula-fed.
Canada leads the world for the number of diagnosed baby colic. Japan has a very low number of diagnosed baby colic, but the Danes “win” with the lowest colic levels.
Go to Causes of Colic.