- A child less than 90 days of age has the sudden onset of unexplained crying
- Crying is the only symptom
- The younger the child, the harder it is to identify the cause of the crying
- Common causes of new-onset crying: hunger, sleepy, pain, too cold, too hot, clothing too tight
- Main cause of recurrent crying: normal fussy crying. When this occurs over 3 hours/day, it’s called colic.
- Gas does not cause crying. All crying babies pass lots of gas and their intestines make lots of gassy noises. The gas comes from swallowed air. The gas is normal and it does not become trapped nor cause any pains.
- Overfeeding: Some babies cry because of a bloated stomach from overfeeding. Unlike gas, excessive milk can cause temporary discomfort.
Definition of Colic
See More Appropriate Topic (instead of this one) If
Should I Call?
WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR
Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
- Your child looks or acts very sick
- Age under 1 month and looks or acts abnormal in any way
- Age under 12 weeks with fever above 100.4° F (38° C) rectally (Caution: Do NOT give your baby any fever medicine before being seen)
- Low temperature below 96.8° F (36.0° C) rectally that doesn't respond to warming
- Injury suspected
- Pain suspected as cause of crying
- Bulging or swollen soft spot
- Swollen scrotum
- You are afraid you or someone might hurt or shake your baby
- Your baby cannot be comforted after trying this advice for 2 hours
- You think your child needs to be seen urgently
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
- You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
- New onset of intermittent crying and persists over 4 hours
- Not gaining weight or seems hungry
- You are exhausted from all the crying
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
- You have other questions or concerns
- Your baby has never been examined for excessive crying
- Crying began after 1 month of age
- Crying occurs 3 or more times per day
Parent Care at Home If
- Normal crying or colic and you don't think your child needs to be seen
Care at Home
HOME CARE ADVICE FOR NORMAL CRYING OR COLIC
- Normal Crying: All babies cry when they are hungry. In addition, the average baby has 1 to 2 hours of unexplained crying scattered throughout the day. As long as they are happy and content when they are not crying, this is normal.
- Colic: Some babies cry excessively (over 3 hours/day) or are very difficult to comfort. If they are growing normally and have a normal medical exam, the crying is called colic. Remind yourself that colic is due to brain immaturity and has nothing to do with your parenting or any medical disease.
- Feedings: Feed your baby, if more than 2 hours since the last feeding (1½ hours for breast fed).
- Hold and Comfort:
Swaddle your Baby in a Blanket:
- Cry to Sleep:
Encourage Nighttime Sleep (Rather Than Daytime Sleep):
- Warning: Never shake a baby. It can cause bleeding on the brain and severe brain damage. Also never leave your baby with anyone who is immature or has a bad temper. If you are frustrated, put your baby down in a safe place and get help.
- Expected Course: Once you find the right technique, the crying should decrease to 1 hour per day. Colic improves after 2 months of age and is usually gone by 3 months.
- Call Your Doctor If:
- Your baby starts to look or act abnormal
- Cries constantly over 2 hours using this advice
- Cannot be comforted using this advice
- Your child becomes worse
And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. Clinical content review provided by Senior Reviewer and Healthpoint Medical Network.
Last Review Date: 6/1/2011
Last Revised: 8/1/2011
Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
Version Year: 2012
Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.