What is colic?
Official Definition of Colic
In order to diagnose your baby with colic, your physician will use the standard definition of the condition, as defined by Morris Wessel: Unexplained crying in an infant between the ages of 2 weeks and 4 months, at least 3 hours a day, 3 times a week, for 3 weeks or more. Crying typically occurs in the late afternoon or evening.
The problem with this definition, is that it simply explains a behaviour; it in no way helps explain what causes the crying, or what to do about it.
Keep in mind that although the term colic is used throughout this site, it is simply being used to describe unexplained crying in infants, not to describe a medical condition.
Factors Contributing to Colic
One thing the experts all agree on is that there are likely many factors that can contribute to extreme fussiness/colic. Factors such as:
- Lack of sleep/disrupted sleep initially setting off a cycle of irritability and sleep deprivation
- State Control (how well your baby transitions from sleep to awake, how easily they can calm themselves, etc.)
- Stimulation in the environment
- Stress in the home
Think of the facets of a diamond. The diamond is a beautiful stone; it has many facets to it. But it’s still a piece of carbon. You have temperament, crying, fussiness, wakefulness, and you have not sleeping well. These are just different ways of describing the colicky baby. They are all intertwined together, but they’re still a colicky baby. – Marc Weissbluth
We don’t know what causes colic. One of the things I’m finding with my spirited babies is that they can be easily disrupted from their sleep, so lack of sleep may be an initial factor too. In regards to ‘were spirited kids colicky as babies?’. Yes. But there is no direct correlation, at least not in the research. – Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
It’s like an equation that determines how fussy your baby is going to be. Part of the equation is temperament, which is ultimately the personality traits you’re going to see in your child as they get older. Part of it is what we call state control – which is how well the baby is able to keep their balance. When they cry, how well can they calm themselves down?. When they’re asleep, can they stay asleep? Those things mixed together with the amount of stimulation in the environment. – Harvey Karp