Understanding colic

by | Jun 24, 2016

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The inconsolable cry of a colicky baby can leave parents desperate. While its cause is still something of a conundrum, there are treatment options that can alleviate some of your baby’s symptoms and also offer you the support you need to feel less isolated and stressed by the condition. Françoise Gallet takes a look at the research into colic and potential treatment options for colicky babies.

What is colic?

The crying of a colicky infant fit a particular and identifiable pattern – one that was first identified by American paediatrician, Dr Morris Wessel in 1953 – and constitutes crying episodes that span up to three hours per day, for more than three days per week and for more than three weeks in a row.

Babies usually only reach this set of “Wessel criteria” by two to three weeks of age – although they may be a little niggly in their first few weeks, explains paediatrician, Professor Keith Bolton, who has a special interest in infant crying.

“Characteristic of the colic cry is that the infant often goes blue or red in the face, may pull up their legs to their trunk and look congested and as if in pain. Often the infant will avidly take to the breast or bottle and then spit it out and cry and cry and cry. And frequently the crying is diurnal in nature – with most of the crying being done in the evening.”

Despite their inconsolable wailing, these babies usually thrive – gaining weight and growing in an otherwise healthy fashion. Then somewhere between months three and six, the crying episodes disappear like the morning dew, explains Prof. Bolton.