Colic describes frequent, intense, and extended periods of crying in infants who are otherwise healthy. A baby who exhibits these symptoms is known as a “colicky” baby. Crying is very common for newborn babies. Colic is defined as crying for three or more hours a day, for three or more days a week, over three or more weeks. The symptoms of colic usually begin to occur when a baby is about 2-6 weeks old, and will often go away around 3-4 months of age.
- Body tension (such as clenched fists, an arched back, stiff legs, and a tense abdomen)
- Intense crying
- Facial discoloration, and grimacing
- Concentrated timing of crying (episodes usually occur in the evening)
- Passing gas (commonly caused by an excessive intake of air during crying)
There is no common cause of colic. Babies will often cry to have their diaper changed or to tell a parent that they are hungry, but episodes of colic often occur without this need. Colicky babies will also continue to cry and fuss even after they are changed or fed. Because of this, colic can be frustrating for parents, as there is no defined reason for the episodes of intense crying.
Colic occurs in roughly 1 in 10 babies. It appears equally in both baby boys and baby girls. While the condition does not cause any complications or lead to any health risks, it can be stressful and emotionally draining for parents. In some cases, colic may signify the presence of an underlying health condition, such as food intolerances, digestive problems, migraines, or poor nutrition. If your child is experiencing extensive bouts of intense crying, talk to your doctor. In many cases, colic will go away on its own. However, it is important to have the health of your baby checked to ensure that these symptoms are not being caused by any medical issues.
Below is a list of common treatment options for colic. During your appointment, discuss these with your doctor to determine the right treatment plan for you.
There is no “cure” for colic, nor can it be managed with medication. Instead, doctors recommend implementing soothing strategies to see if they help calm the newborn down. Some of these methods may not work. It is important that you remain patient and calm while experimenting with these tips:
- Gently rock (don’t shake) your baby in a rocking chair or from side-to-side in your arms
- Give your infant a pacifier
- Walk around with your baby either in your arms or in a stroller
- Safely secure your baby in a car seat and take them on a car ride
- Play gentle, quiet music
- Swaddle (wrap) your baby snugly in a warm blanket
- Stroke your baby’s head or lightly pat and rub your baby’s back and tummy
- Sing or gently talk to your baby
- Give your baby a warm (not hot) bath
- Limit visual stimulation (such as TV and other screens) while dimming your household’s lights
- Try various feeding frequencies (more or less often) and burp your baby during and after feeding
If your doctor suspects that your baby’s colic is caused by diet, they may recommend a change in formula or maternal diet (what a mother eats). If a baby has a food allergy, this may help prevent digestive problems caused by the intolerance.
Finally, it is important that you take care of your physical and mental health while caring for a colicky baby. Find times to exercise, and socialize with others. Don’t judge yourself, and remind yourself that colic is a temporary condition that will go away in time.