Colic Tips From Dr. Sears

Colic Tips From Dr. Sears

Colic Tips From Dr. Sears Excerpt with permission from “The Portable Pediatrician” by

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Colic is one of the most misunderstood terms in pediatric care. Recently, new insights have demystified colic and revealed not only what it is but also how to treat babies who are truly in pain. The term colic comes from the Greek word kolikos, meaning "suffering in the colon." In simple jargon, colic is a pain in the gut. Colic is the term used to describe frequent, inconsolable outbursts of painful crying that come and go throughout the day in an otherwise happy baby. Pediatricians often tag an apparently healthy, thriving infant with colic if Baby’s crying jags follow what is called the rule of threes:

  • begin within the first three weeks of life
  • last at least three hours a day
  • occur at least three days a week
  • continue for at least three weeks
  • seldom last longer than three months

Three things parents should remember about the term colic:

  • Colic is a description, not a diagnosis.
  • Colic often has a cause.
  • Replace the term colic with hurting baby.
Healthy MOMentum

In tracking down the cause and formulating treatment for the colicky baby, the first thing we did in our pediatric practice was to drop the term colic from our diagnosis list and instead use the term hurting baby. Besides being more accurate, use of this term motivates doctor and parents to keep searching for a cause and keep working at ways of helping their baby feel better. This label was also therapeutic for parents.

By viewing your baby as "hurting" instead of "crying," you are more likely to show the same empathy that you would for a baby who was hurting because of an identifiable medical cause, such as an ear infection. Instead of regarding crying as an annoying tool babies use to "manipulate" their parents into holding them a lot, which tops the list of colic myths, using the term hurting baby brings out the best in the parents and the doctor. The parents feel more empathetic for the baby and don’t blame themselves when their baby cries so much (while their friends have such "good babies"). In addition, the doctor can click more into the medical mind-set of a "healer" in order to heal the hurt instead of glossing over it.