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Infantile Colic: Overview and Risk Factors

Infantile colic refers to excessive crying in a baby less than three months old. Colic is defined as crying that occurs in an otherwise healthy baby for three or more hours a day, on three or more days a week, for three or more weeks. These criteria are somewhat controversial in that they may not adequately distinguish abnormal crying from normal behavior that occurs around six weeks of age.

Colic episodes are usually characterized by increased intensity, duration, and irregularity of crying that borders on screaming, as well as an abrupt onset and conclusion of the episodes.

Symptoms of colic may include flushing, constipation, distension of the abdomen, loss of appetite, and persistent crying and irritability.

Caretakers should understand that they may not be able to console the infant on every occasion. In the absence of other medical issues, colic typically resolves within four months.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for infantile colic are poorly understood. The condition does not appear to be related to gender or gestational age at birth and is not a sign of lactose intolerance, though cow's milk proteins may play a role. The following list identifies possible risk factors that have emerged in research studies, but whose validity has yet to be established:

  • Parental smoking, which is associated with increased risk
  • Stressful home environment, including maternal prenatal anxiety and depression
  • Caucasian race
  • Residence in developed nations and/or locations farther from the equator
  • Feeding practices, which include swallowing of air, excessive feeding, and underfeeding
  • First-born birth order
  • Possible nutritional contributors are described in Nutritional Considerations.


Infantile Colic: Diagnosis and Treatment >>