- Colic Center
- Quiz: Your Baby's First Year!
- 10 Mistakes New Parents Make Slideshow Pictures
- Parenting and Healthy Eating Slideshow Pictures
- Patient Comments: Colic in Babies - Treatments
- Patient Comments: Colic In Babies - Remedies
- Find a local Pediatrician in your town
For many parents, there is nothing more stressful than listening to an inconsolably crying newborn. Colic generally leads to long stretches of such crying. It can be a very difficult for parents, friends, and family who are already dealing with one of the most rewarding but potentially stressful experiences in life, a new baby at home.
- Colic is self-limited and episodic.
- Overfeeding, undiluted juices, food allergies, and emotional stress can aggravate colic.
- It is important for a baby with new abdominal pain and crying to be evaluated by a doctor who can exclude other more serious conditions.
- Don't give medications or other treatments to an infant unless they've been approved by the child's medical practitioner.
What is colic?
Infantile colic has been around for a long time. In 1954, Dr. Morris Wessel, a well-known New Haven pediatrician, defined an infant with colic as "one who, otherwise healthy and well-fed, had paroxysms of irritability, fussing, or crying lasting for a total of three hours a day and occurring on more than three days in any one week for a period of three weeks." It is also important to remember that not all fussy babies suffer from colic. Most infants normally cry two to three hours per day, but this is usually spread out during the 24-hour period.
What are colic symptoms and signs in babies?
The crying or fussing most frequently begins suddenly and often after a feeding. The cry is loud and continuous, and the spells last from one to four hours. The baby's face often gets flushed or red. The belly is sometimes distended or prominent, the legs alternating between flexed and extended straight out; the feet are often cold and the hands clenched. The episodes, while they can occur at any time of the day or night, typically begin in the late afternoon or early evening, just when parents or caregivers are most exhausted. There are some babies who are more prone to infantile colic than others. It is generally believed that if one or both parents were colicky, their baby is more at risk. Infantile colic typically begins at about 2 to 3 weeks of age, reaches its peak at 2 months, begins to subside by 3 months, and is gone by 3½ to 4 months of age. But the frustrating fact remains that although one in four babies has colic and much research has been done on the topic, there is no one proven cause of colic. In some studies, no discernible cause was found for one-quarter of those babies who suffered from colicky episodes. This reality is very frustrating for most parents.
It is certainly known that amongst all colicky babies, there are factors that may worsen the colic symptoms:
- Overfeeding in an attempt to lessen the crying
- Feeding certain foods, especially those with high sugar content (for example, undiluted juices), may increase the amount of gas in the intestine and worsen the situation
- The presence of excessive anger, anxiety, fear, or excitement in the household
- A multitude of other factors as yet unknown
Quick Guide10 Tips to Soothe Your Crying or Colicky Baby
What can be done to help with colic in babies?
This is a very common problem (up to 25% of all babies suffer from colic). Discuss any concerns with the child's pediatrician and talk to other parents or relatives who have had similar experiences. Also keep in mind that colic generally occurs in big, healthy, active, vigorous babies who are great eaters and who grow very well. Sickly, poor-feeding, unhealthy babies or babies with significant underlying problems may well be cranky, miserable, and unhappy; however, these infants tend to be this way most of the time, whereas the baby with colic generally has episodes at a very predictable ("set your clock by the beginning and end") time of the day.
Here are some suggestions:
- Do not overfeed! Stick to the baby's regular feeding schedule of timing and amount of milk taken, as measured in ounces in the bottle-fed baby or in minutes on the breast in the breastfed baby.
- Breastfeeding mothers should avoid too many milk products ("you don't have to drink milk to make milk"), caffeine, onions, cabbage, beans, broccoli, and other gas-producing, irritating foods. Be sure that if the baby is taking juices, that they are very diluted, or just offer plain water. If babies are really thirsty, they will drink it.
- Avoid juices (young infants should not be drinking juice anyway).
- In the formula-fed baby, try changing to a formula containing whey hydrolysate (such as Good Start) or try a low-allergy formula (such as Nutramigen, Alimentum, or Pregestimil). Some research suggests that making these changes can result in a decrease in the number of episodes and duration of symptoms in some infants. It is worth the expense of a week's trial to see if the formula is at all contributing to the colic.
- Take a break! When the anxiety, fear, and tension get to be too much (or perhaps an hour before!), try to have someone else watch the baby, even for an hour, and leave the house. Try to keep a positive attitude.
- Try walking the baby in a front-pouch-style carrier with his legs drawn up and pressure off of his belly.
- Though there is no clear evidence that physical stimulation helps, many parents swear by it. Some babies seem to be soothed by rhythmic, steady movements, like rocking gently or by sounds, like running the vacuum, or having the clothes dryer within earshot. (Never leave a baby unattended near the dryer, as there is a serious risk of injury.)
- Wrap the baby firmly in a comfortable blanket ("swaddling").
- Medications, such as simethicone (Phazyme, Flatulex, Mylicon, Gas-X, Mylanta Gas), and other homeopathic treatments have not conclusively proven to be more effective than placebo (sugar pill) and should be avoided unless prescribed by the infant's medical provider. Hyoscyamine (Levsin), an antispasmodic medication used to treat adults with various intestinal ailments, has been associated with serious side effects in young infants.
- Be cautious with herbal remedies. Although there are some who recommend chamomile, fennel and others, there is little evidence that colic is cured with these treatments. Try to avoid using gripe water, unless recommended specifically by the pediatrician, because there are often unregulated ingredients (alcohol, etc.) that may be harmful to the infant.
- Recently, there have been some interesting results using certain probiotics (dietary supplements containing live bacteria or yeast and used to aid digestion). It is important to discuss these options with a health-care professional prior to using them.
What can the doctor do to help a colicky baby? What is the treatment for colic in an infant?
It is critically important to consult the baby's doctor at the very beginning of the suspected colic symptoms. While there are no tests that can be done where the results come back "colic," it is very important to exclude several other causes of crying or sudden-onset screaming in a newborn. Remember that other less serious causes of crying include anything that causes discomfort. Check if the infant is hungry, too cold or too warm, over-tired or suffering from food intolerance (gassy, overly loose stool). Other more serious conditions to consider include intestinal blockage or obstruction, abdominal infection, a hernia, a scratch of the baby's eye, an ear infection, a bladder infection, and others. Once the baby is given a clean bill of health, an understanding, supportive doctor is worth his weight in gold! Should a colicky baby's symptoms ever suddenly change, the doctor will reassess the situation and look for unrelated problems that can arise in any baby. As discussed above, the doctor may recommend an over-the-counter anti-gas bubble medicine for the baby (for example, Mylicon Drops) or even a probiotic. Babies take these medications orally. And when it seems that there are as many "cures" for colic as there are grandparents, always call the baby's doctor first. Finally, remember that after the three or four months, the colic resolves; there are no long-term problems associated with colic.
Daily Health News
Parenting and Newborn Resources
Subscribe to MedicineNet's Pregnancy & Newborns Newsletter
Cohen-Silver, J., and S. Ratnapalan. "Management of Infantile Colic: A Review." Clinical Pediatrics 48.1 Jan. 2009: 14-17.
Wessel, M.A., J.C. Cobb, E.B. Jackson, et al. "Paroxysmal Fussing in Infancy, Sometimes Called Colic." Pediatrics 14.5 (1954): 421-435.
Top Colic Related Articles
Abdominal Pain (Causes, Remedies, Treatment)
Abdominal pain can have many causes that range from mild to severe. Some of these causes include bloating, gas, colitis, endometriosis, food poisoning, GERD, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), ovarian cysts, abdominal adhesions, diverticulitis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, gallbladder disease, liver disease, and cancers.
Signs and symptoms of the more serious causes include dehydration, bloody or black tarry stools, severe abdominal pain, pain with no urination or painful urination.
Treatment for abdominal pain depends upon the cause.
AllergyAn allergy refers to a misguided reaction by our immune system in response to bodily contact with certain foreign substances. When these allergens come in contact with the body, it causes the immune system to develop an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to it. It is estimated that 50 million North Americans are affected by allergic conditions. The parts of the body that are prone to react to allergies include the eyes, nose, lungs, skin, and stomach. Common allergic disorders include hay fever, asthma, allergic eyes, allergic eczema, hives, and allergic shock.
AnxietyAnxiety is a feeling of apprehension and fear characterized by symptoms such as trouble concentrating, headaches, sleep problems, and irritability. Anxiety disorders are serious medical illnesses that affect approximately 19 million American adults. Treatment for anxiety may incorporate medications and psychotherapy.
Better Ways to Feed Your BabyWhat tips and tricks help you introduce healthy foods to your baby's diet. Learn techniques for feeding that work for infants and young children, why babies are such messy eaters, and how your child learns by eating new foods and exploring vegetables, fruits, and other healthy meals.
Bladder InfectionBladder infection is an infection of the bladder, usually caused by bacteria or, rarely, by Candida. Certain people, including females, the elderly, men with enlarged prostates, and those with chronic medical conditions are at increased risk for bladder infection. Bladder infections are treated with antibiotics, but cranberry products and adequate hydration may help prevent bladder infections.
BreastfeedingIt's important to know whether you will breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby prior to delivery, as the breasts' ability to produce milk diminishes soon after childbirth without the stimulation of breastfeeding. Breast milk is easily digested by babies and contains infection-fighting antibodies and cholesterol, which promotes brain growth. Formula-fed babies actually need to eat somewhat less often since formula is less readily digested by the baby than human milk. This article explores the advantages and disadvantages of both forms of feeding.
Common Infant IllnessesWatch this slideshow to see common symptoms and home treatment for infant and childhood illnesses including fever, nausea, constipation and more.
Food AllergyThe most common food allergies are to eggs, nuts, milk, peanuts, fish, shellfish, strawberries and tomatoes. Symptoms and signs include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, itching, hives, eczema, asthma, lightheadedness, and anaphylaxis. Allergy skin tests, RAST, and ELISA tests may be used to diagnose a food allergy. Though dietary avoidance may be sufficient treatment for mild allergies, the use of an Epipen may be necessary for severe food allergies.
Diaper Your Baby GuideWith plenty of chances to diaper your newborn baby, these step-by-step tips will help you master the art of diaper changing and fix any first-time mistakes fast. You may even learn to love this extra time with your baby.
Intestinal Gas (Belching, Bloating, Flatulence)
Anal itching is the irritation of the skin at the exit of the rectum, known as the anus, accompanied by the desire to scratch. Causes include everything from irritating foods we eat, to certain diseases, and infections. Treatment options include medicine including, local anesthetics, for example, lidocaine (Xylocaine), pramoxine (Fleet Pain-Relief), and benzocaine (Lanacane Maximum Strength), vasoconstrictors, for example, phenylephrine 0.25% (Medicone Suppository, Preparation H, Rectocaine), protectants, for example, glycerin, kaolin, lanolin, mineral oil (Balneol), astringents, for example, witch hazel and calamine, antiseptics, for example, boric acid and phenol, aeratolytics, for example, resorcinol, analgesics, for example, camphor and juniper tar, and
Gas (intestinal gas) means different things to different people. Everyone has gas and eliminates it by belching, burping, or farting (flatulence). Bloating or abdominal distension is a subjective feeling that the stomach is larger or fuller than normal. Belching or burping occurs when gas is expelled from the stomach out through the mouth. Flatulence or farting occurs when intestinal gas is passed from the anus.
Causes of belching or burping include drinking too rapidly, anxiety, carbonated drinks, habit, and swallowing air.
Causes of bloating or distension include tumors, ascites, fluid within the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and obesity.
Causes of gas or flatulence are diseases such as sugary foods and drinks, fruits and vegetables, starches (wheat, oats, corn, and potatoes), lactose intolerance, untreated celiac disease, and SIBO.
Treatment for excessive intestinal gas depends on the cause. If anal itching persists, a doctor examination may be needed to identify an underlying cause.
IntussusceptionIntussusception is the telescoping (prolapse) of a portion of the intestine within another immediately adjacent portion of intestine. Intussusception affects children between the ages of 3 months and 5 years of age. The causes of intussusception is not clearly understood. Symptoms of intussusception include bilious vomiting, "currant jelly stool," and colicky abdominal pain. Intussusception is an emergency requires immediate attention.
Crying & Colic SlideshowLearn top parenting tricks for calming crying, colicky, and fussy newborns and babies.
Shaken Baby Syndrome (Abusive Head Trauma)Shaken baby syndrome, or abusive head trauma, is the condition that describes the symptoms and signs that result from the violent shaking of an infant. These symptoms and signs include:
- poor feeding,
- head trauma,
- and hemorrhages of the retina.
StressStress occurs when forces from the outside world impinge on the individual. Stress is a normal part of life. However, over-stress, can be harmful. There is now speculation, as well as some evidence, that points to the abnormal stress responses as being involved in causing various diseases or conditions.