What is colic?

Colic is also known as infantile colic and excessive crying syndrome.
Colic is also known as infantile colic and excessive crying syndrome.

Colic is also known as infantile colic and excessive crying syndrome. This is characterized by frequent, prolonged, and intense crying in an infant for reasons we do not know. Most of the time, the infant is healthy and is neither hungry nor has a dirty diaper.

Episodes of colic usually begin when the baby is 2 weeks old but are more frequently encountered when they turn 6 weeks. They subside gradually by the time the baby turns 3-4 months old. Although colic is a part and parcel of a baby’s early few months, it may cause distress in both parents and the kid.

Crying that sounds like a scream is a symptom of colic in babies.

Colic Symptoms & Signs

  • Abdominal Bloating
  • Clenched Fists
  • Crying for More Than Three Hours a Day
  • Crying That Begins at the Same Time Each Evening
  • Crying That Sounds Like a Scream
  • Extreme Fussiness
  • Flatulence
  • Intense Crying for No Apparent Reason
  • Red, Flushed Face
  • Tightened Stomach Muscles

What causes colic in a baby?

The exact cause of colic remains unknown. However, experts think certain factors may play a role. These include:

  • Hormones
  • The imbalance in the gut bacteria of the kid
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • An immature, developing nervous system
  • Childhood migraine
  • Too much handling of the child, which irritates them
  • Fear

What are signs and symptoms of colic in babies?

You know your baby has colic if he or she displays the following colic symptoms and signs:

  • Your baby's cry seems like a scream or sound as if they are in pain.
  • Your baby is fussy even after they have stopped crying.
  • Your baby cries at a regular time, usually during the evenings.
  • Your baby's face is flushed during crying.
  • Your baby curls up, stiffens their legs and arms, has a tensed (tight) abdomen, and a clenched fist.
  • Your baby passes the gas and feels relieved (release of swallowed air, while crying).
  • You cannot console your baby.

How do doctors diagnose colic in a baby?

For a baby’s crying to be diagnosed as infantile colic, the three criteria are:

  • The crying present for at least 3 hours a day.
  • The crying occurs at least 3 days a week.
  • The crying is persistent for at least 3 weeks in a row.

There is no test to confirm colic. The doctor does a physical examination of the baby, and if needed, they can order a few tests to rule out:

  • Infection
  • Issues with the stomach, such as gases
  • Possible sensitivity to the infant formula
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Injury to bones or muscles
  • An issue with the brain or nervous system

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What is the treatment for colic in babies?

There is no treatment to eliminate colic. It usually goes away on its own by the time the baby is 4 months old. Your doctor may give some medications, such as simethicone, fennel extract, or some nutritional supplement containing probiotics to ease the discomfort in the gut, if any.

Some steps can help alleviate the severity and duration of the episodes. Here is what you can do:

  • Feed the baby after you make sure that they are hungry.
  • Bottle-feed the baby in an upright position.
  • Check your baby's diaper, change the diaper if dirty, and keep the diaper area clean.
  • Increase the frequency of burping after the feedings.
  • Swaddling the baby in a blanket, preferably in dim light.
  • Try changing the infant formula.
  • Walk with the baby in your arms.
  • Talk to your baby.
  • Sing to your baby.
  • Play music.
  • Take the baby out for a ride in the stroller or a car.
  • Make use of a pacifier.
  • Give the baby a warm bath.
  • See if eliminating certain foods, such as eggs, wheat, or soy, helps resolve the colic. Try cutting back on one food item at a time to see which foods are associated with the colic.

For additional concerns, do not hesitate to schedule a visit to the pediatrician.

Caring for your baby with colic can be frustrating but that is OK. Destress yourself by taking a break in between. Get help from your family or friends by asking them to come over and babysit the baby for a few hours. Share your feelings with them. Always remind yourself that the colic is temporary, and you and your baby will be fine.

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Medically Reviewed on 6/8/2021
References
Cuñé, J., and J. Santas. "Infant Colic: Is a Solution at Hand?" Medscape. <https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/822073_1>.

Turner, T.L., and S. Palamountain. "Infantile Colic: Clinical Features and Diagnosis." UpToDate. <https://www.uptodate.com/contents/infantile-colic-clinical-features-and-diagnosis>.