Crying vs. Colic

Crying vs. Colic

Nature designed your baby’s cry to get your attention! Maybe baby is hungry, thirsty, uncomfortable, or having gas or in pain. Maybe baby is lonely and wants to be held and loved on. Heck, just a change in routine, a new experience or feeling tired is enough to make most babies cry.

So how much crying is normal? Research indicates that most babies cry roughly:

  • 2 hours a day in their first 2 weeks
  • 2 hours and 15 minutes a day by 6 weeks old
  • 1 hour a day at 12 weeks old

During these times, baby can typically be calmed with attention and care. If your baby falls into a more intense pattern of crying, it may be colic.

When it’s Colic

To consider whether baby is colicky, think 3-3-3. With colic, baby cries for more than 3 hours a day, for at least 3 days in a week, and for more than 3 weeks—up to 3 months. This type of crying often starts in baby’s first month of life.

Different from normal crying, a colicky baby usually seems distressed or in pain. Colicky crying is extreme with any or all of the following features:

  • Episodic—occurring around the same time each day
  • Intense—more like screaming than crying, with a sense of pain or discomfort
  • Unexplainable—for no apparent reason, such as hunger or diapering needs
  • Physical—baby’s face may redden, and they may tighten their limbs, arch their back and clench their fists

Experts aren’t sure what causes colic, but often baby’s passing gas or having a bowl movement relieves it. Colic is stressful for parents yet typically harmless for baby. As possible, stay with baby through these periods, taking short breaks with help from your partner or another trusted adult.

Anytime you or another person feels like they aren’t able to safely hold and console baby, place baby in their crib on their back and walk away. Never shake baby, which could cause lasting harm, or even death. As baby continues to wail, check on them every 5-10 minutes until the inconsolable crying passes.

Managing Colic

Help your baby through these intense periods with these tips; are they:

  • Hungry—nurse baby
  • Needing a diaper change—speak softly and slowly as you move through diapering
  • Gassy—burp baby
  • Tense—bathe baby
  • Fussy—go skin-to-skin while you walk or sway
  • Inconsolable—take baby for a walk or car ride
By Carolyn Davis Cockey, MLS,, LCCE

Carolyn Davis Cockey, MLS, LCCE, is editor of Healthy Mom&Baby and a Lamaze-Certified Childbirth Educator.


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