The Problem

The definition of Infant Colic described above is necessarily a bit “slippery” & subjective. It relies on the word “excessive”, but excessive is in the eyes of the beholder. Parents differ in their tolerance for crying. For some, anything more than a few minutes is “excessive”, while for others it might take several hours for them to become alarmed. Scientists have studied crying in infants and found that the “average” infant cries 2-3 hours per day. This has led to definitions of Infant Colic for research purposes that depend on a crying time greater than four hours per day. However, for a child’s parents, 4 hours can seem like an eternity, and minutes can seem like hours. Parents, therefore, tend not to be very accurate in estimating infant crying times. In “real life”, Infant Colic is defined by whatever amount of crying seems excessive to the parent(s). This in turn is greatly affected by how successful they feel at soothing their baby. It is very frustrating not to be able to soothe a baby. Therefore, babies who are difficult to soothe may be more apt to be termed “colicky” even if their actual crying time is no different from another baby who cries a lot but can be easily consoled.

Few conditions in early childhood are less well understood than Infant Colic. Parental vs. medical perceptions of this problem tend to be quite different. The main reason for this is that most intuitive, “common sense” ways of understanding and treating Colic just don’t jive with the data or scientific research. Every theory ever put forth to explain Infant Colic has either been proved wrong in studies, or by it’s nature defies scientific analysis. Infant Colic is thus one of those frustrating medical problems where we know more about what it isn’t than about what it is.