The Difference Between Colic and Fussiness

Every baby cries at some point, but some seem to cry more often and for longer periods than others. At some point, you may wonder if your baby is merely fussy, or if you are dealing with colic. There are a few distinctions that can help to clarify the issue.

Defining Colic and Fussiness

Doctors define colic as intense periods of crying that last for at least three hours at a time, three or more days a week, for a period of time of at least three weeks in duration. Colic is diagnosed when the baby is otherwise healthy, well-fed, and shows no signs of illness or other problems that might explain the crying.

Fussiness is a little more difficult to define, as there is no medical definition for it, and it really isn’t considered a condition. Fussy babies are generally more sensitive than other babies and may cry more often or take longer to soothe than most babies. Most fussiness isn’t caused by a medical condition either, but illness can cause a fussy baby to be even more difficult to calm or console.

The difference is generally in the duration and regularity of the crying. A baby with colic will usually cry at the same time of day, begin crying out of nowhere, and cry for a long period of time. Fussy babies cry randomly, and may have short burst of crying or longer periods. There may be an obvious reason for fussy behavior, or it may be difficult to tell what the reason is for the crying.

Determining Between Colic and Fussiness

If your baby cries more than three hours a day several days a week for many weeks straight, you are most likely dealing with colic. You should see your baby’s pediatrician to rule out other causes of the crying and confirm the diagnosis. If the crying is less often and less persistent, it is likely your baby is fussy but not colicky.

While colicky babies don’t often respond to traditional methods of soothing, fussy babies are more likely to be soothed with common tricks. It may require more effort and more persistence, however, and you might need to try a lot of different options to see what works for your baby.

Fussy babies tend to cry fairly frequently and are upset easily, but the crying doesn’t usually go on for hours the way it does with colic. Although it may seem like your baby is crying an awful lot, keeping track of how long crying spells actually last will make it easier to determine whether or not colic is actually a possibility. A fussy baby may cry many more time per day than a colicky baby, but the colicky baby’s crying will last much longer at a spell. Fussiness doesn’t usually follow a pattern the way colic does, and a fussy baby will cry at any time of day for difficult but not always impossible to determine reasons.

Keeping track of your baby’s crying habits is a good method of figuring out whether your baby has colic or is fussy. Write down when the crying started, how long it lasted, what caused it to stop (if it was anything obvious) and what soothing methods you tried. If you take your baby to the doctor, this record will also help the doctor to determine what is going on.

Colic: What it is and What to do

The very word colic is enough to raise fear in the hearts of mothers everywhere. Even if you have not had a colicky baby yourself, chances are you have heard the tales from other mothers of endless crying, sleepless nights, and failure after failure to soothe the baby. All babies are a challenge and can cry for long periods of time for no apparent reason, but a baby with colic is a different story altogether.

What is Colic?

The basic definition of colic is a baby who is healthy and well-fed, but screams or cries inconsolably for at least three hours a day, three days a week, for an extended period of time, generally a minimum of three weeks. If your baby fits this description, colic is likely. Unlike the crying of a normal baby, a colicky baby has no apparent reason, at least none that the parents or doctor can uncover, for the crying. This can cause parents a great deal of frustration; as every mother and father knows, there is nothing worse than being unable to provide comfort to your child.

Colicky babies usually have their spells of crying at the same time of the day, and the crying is usually very intense and high-pitched. Colic-related crying seems to start out of nowhere, and you may notice changes in baby’s posture such as clenched fists and tense muscles. A colicky baby will often cry so hard as to cause a flushed face and heavy breathing.

What to Do If You Suspect Colic

If your baby is having intense crying spells lasting for hours on a regular basis, and you can find no cause for the crying, you probably are facing colic. It’s a good idea to see your baby’s doctor to rule out other possible causes of the crying that might not be readily visible to you, such as ear infection or reflux. Your doctor will perform an examination and if nothing is found, you will likely be given a diagnosis of colic.

Unfortunately, the diagnosis really means that there is not much the doctor can offer by way of assistance. Unlike reflux or infections, there is currently no medical treatment for colic, mainly because no one really knows what causes it. There are some things you can try at home, however, to improve the situation.

Soothing a Colicky Baby

You may feel that you have tried everything to soothe your baby without any success, but that doesn’t mean you should give up trying. Sometimes it will take a great deal of trial and error to find what works for your baby, and different soothing techniques may help at different times, so try things again that may have failed in the past. At the very least, you will feel like you are doing something for baby.

Colicky babies may be soothed by motion, so try a swing or taking your baby for a ride in the car. You can also rock the baby in your arms, although this may become tiring after a while – it is worth it for some peace and quiet. Some colicky babies will also respond to being swaddled, as they feel more secure that way.

If nothing else works, you might have to ride out the storm. The good news is, babies usually outgrow colic by about 3 months old, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Take turns handling the worst of the colic episodes so that no one reaches the end of their patience. Colic can be very trying, but it will end eventually.