Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis: Fussing and Crying Durations and Prevalence of Colic in Infants

J Pediatr. 2017 Jun:185:55-61.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2017.02.020. Epub 2017 Apr 3.


Objective: To determine the mean duration of fussing and crying and prevalence of colic using modified Wessel criteria in infants in the first 3 months of life.

Study design: A systematic literature search was performed using the databases Medline, PsycINFO, and Embase. The major outcome measure was mean total fuss/cry duration during 24 hours at ages 1-2 weeks (11 samples), 3-4 weeks (6 samples), 5-6 weeks (28 samples), 8-9 weeks (9 samples), and 10-12 weeks (12 samples).

Results: Of 5687 articles reviewed, 28 diary studies (33 samples) were suitable for inclusion in meta-analysis; these studies included 8690 infants. No statistical evidence for a universal crying peak at 6 weeks of age across studies was found. Rather, the mean fuss/cry duration across studies was stable at 117-133 minutes (SDs: 66-70) in the first 6 weeks and dropped to a mean of 68 minutes (SD: 46.2) by 10-12 weeks of age. Colic was much more frequent in the first 6 weeks (17%-25%) compared with 11% by 8-9 weeks of age and 0.6% by 10-12 weeks of age, according to modified Wessel criteria and lowest in Denmark and Japan.

Conclusions: The duration of fussing/crying drops significantly after 8-9 weeks of age, with colic as defined by modified Wessel criteria being rare in infants older than 9 weeks. Colic or excessive fuss/cry may be more accurately identified by defining fuss/cry above the 90th percentile in the chart provided based on the review.

Keywords: colic; country; diary; feeding type; fuss/cry duration; modified-Wessel criteria.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Colic / diagnosis*
  • Crying*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Behavior*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Irritable Mood*
  • Prevalence
  • Time Factors