Newborns typically cry for an hour or more per day. While it may be comforting to know that this is normal baby behavior, it can be quite disconcerting to deal with a screaming baby. It’s even more stressful if your baby cries more than the average baby.
Some babies cry more and are less easily soothed than other babies. Heavy criers are often termed "high need" babies by pediatricians. High need babies often exhibit other behaviors like wanting to be held constantly. Many parents may refer to their intense infants as colicky.
In fact, the official definition of a baby with colic is an infant who cries for a minimum of three hours per day, at least three times per week, over a time period of three weeks or more as noted in the Journal of Clinical Nursing. Nurses and pediatricians refer to this as the "rule of threes."
Some infants may have extreme crying bouts seven days a week, and the colic stage may extend from around the age of two weeks up to four months. These episodes come on spontaneously and often fall during the late afternoon or evening hours.
Fortunately, babies do outgrow colic. Most colic issues resolve by four months. Six up to nine months seems to be the outside estimate.
Causes Are Undetermined
The medical community has not identified specific causes of colic. Studies done by Pregnancy Info suggest that infants are more likely to be colicky if labor was prolonged, if forceps were required during delivery or if the mother was or is a smoker. These are, however, general observations. Many babies are calm given the same circumstances.
Scope of the Problem
Between 15 and 20 percent of all babies are defined as suffering from colic. Some researchers estimate the numbers higher. It’s simply difficult to measure such behaviors consistently. What one parent might consider excessive crying may seem quite normal to another parent. Just as infants vary in temperament and patience, so too do parents.
Dealing with Colic
If your baby does cry excessively, you’ll likely develop a range of responses. Babies tend to train parents too.
Some babies may be calmed by riding in the car. Others seem to like to sit in an infant seat on top of the dryer (with an adult holding the chair and monitoring closely). Your baby may calm down if swaddled, or he or she may get more upset if bundled.
Something that may work one day may not work the next which is really discouraging.
Baby May Need Some Time to Cry
In some cases, it may be best to put your baby in a safe place and let him cry it out. Be certain first that you’ve met all his or her needs and that he or she isn’t sick. There are times when your baby may simply be overestimated and needs a little time to wind down.
Do check back frequently and offer physical and verbal support. You don’t want to desert your baby or send the message that you’re not there for him or her. You really can’t spoil an infant. But, there are rare times when your baby may need to cry and get it out of his or her system.
Ask for Help
Do enlist help if you are dealing with a colicky baby. You will almost certainly be stressed after listening to screams that seem never ending. Take a tag team approach with a trusted adult. Dad/Mom or a grandparent may take over while you take a walk or go to the store. Even a few minutes away can make a huge difference.
Do avoid the urge to pass your baby along to any willing helper. Babies with colic may not adapt well to new or multiple caregivers. Passing your baby from one person to the next and so on may compound the problem.
Talk to Your Pediatrician
Talking to your pediatrician about colic may be helpful, although medical help is limited when it comes to colic. Previously colic was thought to suggest a gastro-intestinal problem. Pediatricians often prescribed antispasmodics, sedatives and other medications. These treatments did not prove particularly effective, and the Children's Medical Office now indicates that colicky babies do not have any more gas in their intestines than those babies who are not colicky.
Colic Isn't Forever – It Just Seems Like It
While it may seem like the colic stage will never end, it does eventually. By the middle of his or her first year, your baby will likely outgrow extreme crying episodes. On the bright side, colicky infants are not more likely to be difficult toddlers than those who were calmer babies. Weather the rough months and look forward to more tranquil times as your baby gets a little older.