“Colicky baby” is a term that can generate confusion. The phrase baby colic is certainly misleading; it seems to imply that the infant is crying due to a GI disorder or pain when that is not really the cause. Infantile Colic refers to an infant who cries often for prolonged periods without an apparent reason and that is difficult to console. The infant is otherwise healthy and has been growing and developing well. Colic can be seen as early as 1 week old but usually starts at 6 weeks of age. It resolves or improves by 4-6 months of age. These babies can cry for extended periods, lasting more than 3 hours/day, for 3 or more days of the week.
Many studies have been done trying to identify a specific cause that supports the explanation of the crying; so far, it is a diagnosis of exclusion with no single identifying reason.
Parenting a colicky baby can be very challenging. Persistent infant crying can cause anxiety, stress, exhaustion, depression and family instability. Babies with this condition are vulnerable to abuse, and in particular, to “Shaken Baby Syndrome”.
Before deciding that this is the cause for an infant’s frequent crying, other entities need to be ruled out, such as: corneal abrasion, hair tourniquet, hernia, testicular torsion, among others. Your pediatrician should look into other possible causes.
The treatment of Colic is conservative. There is not a definitive study that support a specific type of management. Treatment options include changing formula, white noise, a quiet environment, etc.
The most important factor would be: Know when to seek help.
The prognosis is very good. No long term sequelae have been identified.
Adriana Rosado-Jimenez, MD, FAAP