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Learn why some babies cry constantly, and how to tell if colic is the reason.


Every baby cries for no obvious reason at some point. You may put down persistent crying to simple gas, but if you child's crying jags persist day after day and start in late afternoon or evening, then colic is probably culpable.

Colic is characterized by inconsolable wailing (and sometimes shrieking) that begins around two to six weeks of age. Crying jags seem to come out of nowhere and to last forever. No one is sure of colic's cause, but it appears that abdominal discomfort is at the root of the crying that severely taxes everyone's nerves. Of course, your child could be crying because of another medical condition, which is why you should speak with your pediatrician.

Formula-fed infants are more vulnerable to colic than are breastfed babies. A colicky baby could be allergic to cow's-milk-based formula, but don't switch her over to soy without your pediatrician's approval: Babies who are allergic to the protein in cow's milk may be equally sensitive to soy protein. Your colicky infant may fare well with a formula containing predigested protein, which helps avoid triggering an allergic reaction.

When nursing infants are colicky, some dietary changes may be in order on mom's part. Breastfed babies could be hypersensitive to cow's-milk protein, which can make its way into an infant's digestive tract intact through breast milk. Some babies seem to feel better when their mothers avoid milk products, peanuts, eggs, seafood, and wheat, particularly when allergies run in the family. Food avoidance does not always solve the problem, however. Even so, eliminating gas-producing foods such as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower may help, too.

Colic does go away, usually by the time a child is four months old. While you're waiting for colic to disappear, there are a few strategies for preserving your sanity and calming your baby. Experts say colicky babies should avoid unnecessary stimulation. Some parents swear by rocking a wailing baby or taking him for a walk or a car ride, as babies seem to be soothed by rhythmic motions. Ask your pediatrician if medication is a possibility, too.

Heading Off Feeding Problems
Most babies can polish off a bottle in about fifteen to twenty minutes. Newborns may need some time to become accustomed to the nipple, so feedings may go more slowly. As long as your baby seems satisfied with a feeding, she is drinking about as much as recommended (see How Much and How Often to Formula Feed), and her pediatrician says her growth is on target, then things are probably going well.

Sometimes it takes infants more than twenty minutes to finish a bottle. When this happens consistently, call your pediatrician, since your baby may need to be evaluated for motor delay problems that limit his ability to suck properly on the nipple. But baby's feeding problem may have little to do with his physical prowess. When the hole in the plastic nipple is too small, babies must work much harder to get the formula out. They can get tuckered out from the effort and stop feeding well before they are satisfied. Perhaps the nipple collapses during feeding, or it's clogged. If you suspect clogging, test the flow of formula by tipping the bottle upside down. The fluid should drip out under pressure. Some infants suck in a lot of air during bottle-feeding, which limits their stomach capacity. Try gently burping baby midway through each feeding to maximize nourishment.

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