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By Bjarne Lühr Hansen PhD, MD and Philipp Skafte-Holm MD, Mentor Institute

An infant with prolonged screaming that does not go away if the child is offered food, has its diaper changed or is comforted is called infantile colic. 1 in every 10 children has colic. Colic usually disappears, when the child is 3 months old. There is no explanation for colic and the condition is untreatable.

All infants cry, periodically – some more than others. Usually, the child cries because it is hungry, its diaper needs changing or because it feels unsafe. If the parents feed the child, change its diaper or picks up the child, the crying will stop.

Prolonged screaming or infantile colic is something else entirely. An infant with colic cries for a long time and is inconsolable. Doctors call it colic when an infant cries for more than 1½ hour every day. However, most children with colic cry for more than 3 hours a day – and are inconsolable. Even though the child is offered food, the diaper is changed and the parents carry the child, it will continue screaming. It is approximately every tenth child that develops colic.

Typically, the screaming occurs during the evening and lasts for a larger or smaller portion of the night, but it can occur every time of the day. While the child screams it curls up – as if it has a stomach ache. People talk about 3-months colic, and it is indeed true that the majority of children with colic stops with the prolonged screaming when they are around 3 months old.

A colicky child is very nerve-racking for the parents. Frustration and anxiety concerning the child’s health is common. The parents are frustrated because they cannot make the child stop screaming. Most parents are at the same time afraid that there is something wrong with the child. They seek a doctor to find out what is wrong and to treat the child.

Unfortunately, there is neither a good explanation nor treatment for colic. Many scientific investigations have been conducted to explain the causes of colic – none with great success. Some believe colic is caused by cramps in the colon triggered by too big and frequent meals. Others believe that colic is a form of allergy and a lot of mothers have changed their diet with varying luck. However, none of the two causes are accurately correct.

Since colic is very nerve-racking for the parents and the traditional health services cannot offer an effective treatment, many parents seek alternative treatments. Acupuncture and chiropractic are frequently used but has not been proven effective in scientific investigations.

The following might be of help to parents with a colicky child: 1) colic is not dangerous for the child 2) colic disappears on its own 3) children with colic develops entirely normally.

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What can you do?

Avoid giving the child very large meals, it can help only emptying one of the breasts during a single meal. Always comfort the child when it cries – also in the case of colic. Often the parents must take turns because it is nerve-racking to carry a crying child for hours. Massaging the child is good for both the parents and the child.

Contact the doctor tomorrow

A doctor should examine a child with prolonged screaming, at least once. If it is colic, the doctor will be able to declare the child is entirely normal.

Contact the doctor immediately

This is never necessary.