Colic is a mysterious catchall phrase for generally unsettled babies.The definition of colic is a baby that cries for more than three days a week for more than three hours at a time. It is not considered serious, but presents as extended and uncontrollable crying in any baby that is otherwise healthy. It can happen at around two to four weeks of age and can last for three months or longer.

It is believed that colic is related to the baby’s digestive system, or a combination of their temperament and an immature nervous system. A baby may be highly sensitive to the environment and because the baby’s nervous system is immature, he or she is unable to regulate crying once it starts. Crying can be at any time of day but seems to be at its worst in the evening. Babies may look uncomfortable, draw their legs to their stomach, get a red face and pass wind. Some refuse food and it is also common for them to have difficulty falling and staying asleep.

The crying and the anxiety it produces creates stress in the home and it may help for parents to have enough support to be able to take a break once in a while. The good news is; however, that babies that exhibit colic still seem to eat and gain weight normally.

Before you seek medical attention you should make sure that you have eliminated all other possible reasons for discomfort, including hunger, tiredness, lack of contact, startling (sudden noise), undressing (is baby cold?), temperature or some identifiable source of pain.

There is no proven cure for colic, but you may want to consider changing your formula (if lactose allergy suspected, try soy-based instead) if the baby is bottle-fed, or monitor your own diet more closely if the baby is breastfed. Babies find cruciferous vegetables, beans, soft fruit, spicy food, caffeine and alcohol difficult to digest. If there is a history of lactose intolerance, breastfeeding mothers could try eliminating cows milk from their diet.

Make sure baby is burped frequently and consider changing the shape of the nipple if they are bottle-fed, some help to reduce the amount of air the baby is getting. If the baby is breastfed, make sure the latch is good, then baby isn’t taking in air. You could try Boiron’s Cocyntal, a natural, homeopathic remedy to help with colic.

BC Ministry of Health. Baby’s Best Chance: Parents’ Handbook of Pregnancy and Baby Care. (free at local BC health unit)

BC Ministry of Health. Toddler’s First Steps: A Best Chance Guide to Parenting Your Six-Month to Three-Year Old. (free at local BC health unit)

Karp, Harvey. The Happiest Baby On The Block: the New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer.

Murkoff, H., A. Eisenberg and S. Hathaway. What to Expect the First Year.

Spandikow, B., William Sears and Martha Sears. The Fussy Baby: How To Bring Out The Best In Your High-Need Child.

Spock, B. Dr. Dr. Spock’s Baby and Childcare.