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October, 1995
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This paper discusses the baffling phenomenon of extensive crying in infants for unknown reasons, frequently referred to as "colic." Traditional explanations based on gastrointestinal, allergenic, and psychosocial factors are discussed, and evidence supporting a stress-release theory of infant crying is presented. The various sources of stress during infancy are reviewed, and appropriate caregiving responses to crying are discussed. An important distinction is made between the two major functions of crying: communication of immediate needs, and the release of tensions resulting from past trauma. Inappropriate caregiving responses to crying are also described, as well as the possible consequences of repressed crying.


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