Is it just fussiness, or is it colic?

Some babies have frustrating periods of intense, inconsolable crying known as colic — typically starting a few weeks after birth and improving by age 3 months.

Colic is often defined as crying more than three hours a day, three days a week for more than three weeks in an otherwise well-fed, healthy baby. The crying might begin suddenly and for no apparent reason. During an episode, your baby might be difficult — or even impossible — to comfort.

What causes colic remains a mystery, and treatment effectiveness varies.

If you're concerned about colic, consult your baby's health care provider. He or she can make sure your baby is otherwise healthy and help you learn how to care for a colicky baby.

Taking care of yourself

It's tough to listen to your baby cry. To take the best care of your baby, it's important to take care of yourself, too.

  • Take a break. Ask your spouse, partner or another loved one to take over for a while. Even an hour on your own can help renew your coping strength.
  • Make healthy lifestyle choices. Eat a healthy diet. Include physical activity in your daily routine. If you can, sleep when the baby sleeps — even during the day. The better rested you are, the better you'll be able to handle a crying baby.
  • Remember that it's temporary. Crying spells often peak at about six to eight weeks and then gradually decrease.
  • Know when to contact your baby's health care provider. If you're concerned about the crying or your baby isn't eating, sleeping or behaving like usual, contact your baby's health care provider. He or she can help you tell the difference between normal tears and something more serious.

It's also important to recognize your limits.

If your baby's crying is causing you to lose control, put the baby in a safe place — such as a crib — and go to another room to collect yourself. If necessary, contact your health care provider, a local crisis intervention service or a mental health help line for additional support.

Oct. 16, 2012 See more In-depth