Short Answer:  Colic is uncontrollable crying in an otherwise healthy baby. It usually begins around week 2 or 3 and tapers off by 4 months.

The Rule Of Threes

Colic is not exactly a diagnosis, it’s more of a behavioral observation. Pediatricians generally use the “rule of threes” to determine colic: crying episodes that start when a baby is about 3 weeks old (usually afternoon/early evening, though they can happen anytime). The episodes last for more than 3 hours a session, on more than 3 days a week, for more than 3 weeks in a row. Colic typically peaks at 6 to 8 weeks and subsides by 3 to 4 months.

Causes Of Colic

What causes colic is still a mystery. It is estimated that between 8-40% of babies become colicky, and there doesn’t seem to be a pattern. The condition is just as common in girls as in boys, firstborn and later born babies. Theories about what causes colic are plentiful, but none proven.

Some doctors believe that long episodes of colicky crying are a release for sensitive babies overwhelmed by stimuli at day’s end. Another theory is that colic is sometimes caused by an imbalance of healthy bacteria in the intestines. Still others see it as just the high end of the normal crying spectrum.  

Is Gas A Factor?

While it’s true that colicky babies can be gassy, it’s believed that excessive crying causes the gas, not the other way around. Babies swallow air when they cry, which in turn results in gas. Your colicky baby may also clench his/her fingers, arch their back, become flushed, extend and then pull up their legs as they cry.

What Can I Do?

If you suspect your baby has colic, talk to your doctor. You want to be sure to have them rule out other potential causes, such as food allergies, intestinal problems, or urinary tract infections. If your baby is in good health and it is indeed colic, your doctor may be able to provide some tips on how to help soothe your little one.

Although it’s not harmful to your baby, colic can take a toll on your family. Excessive crying has been linked to overmedication of babies, abandoning breastfeeding, postpartum depression, and shaken-baby syndrome.

Take a break if you have to, get support from other family members or a mom-group, and don’t try to take it all on yourself! Try different calming tactics to see what does and doesn’t work, and remember, like all other phases in your child’s development, this too shall pass.