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Colic, which affects 20% of babies, is defined by its symptoms rather than a particular cause. A baby is described as having colic if he or she cries over three hours a day at least three days a week. Colic is usually found in babies age three weeks to three months. Most colicky babies cry more in the late evening or at night. Generally speaking, after the third month the infant "miraculously" stops crying, giving parents some much needed relief.

CAUSES

Although theories abound as to the cause of colic, one main theme is that it has to do with the babies digestive system. This is supported by the fact that colicky babies typically pull their legs up as if experiencing abdominal cramps or pain. An infant's digestive systems may still be developing up to around three months old. However, some experts suggest that abdominal pain is the result of crying rather than the cause. When the baby cries, he or she is most likely swallowing air when crying. Another theory is that colicky babies are intolerant of certain types of food such as dairy. This may be the case if a baby cries more after feedings. Some researchers now suggest that some babies suffer from reflux, a condition in which stomach acid is regurgitated causing heartburn.

WHAT CAN YOU DO

While some parents have tried everything and still have a screaming baby on their hands, there are some tried and true methods of coping with colic.

1. The first thing you should do is check with your baby's pediatrician to make sure there is no medical cause for your baby's crying.

2. Keep a diary of when the baby cries along with activities like feeding and napping. Look for patterns which may offer a clue to the solution.

3. Try an elimation diet if you are breastfeeding in case your baby is reacting to something you've eaten. Try eliminating dairy first. Other possible culprits are onions, cabbage and cauliflower.

4. If you are bottlefeeding, reduce the amount of air that the baby gulps.

5. Lessen the stimulation in the room. Bright lights, noise, and lots of people can further distress a baby with colic.

6. Turn a fan on or some other type of "white noise." Constant movement such as rocking or riding in a car are proven methods of getting colicky babies to sleep.

7. Closeness to your body and skin to skin contact can be very soothing. Carry your baby close to your body in a sling, and massage your baby every day.