Conditions + Treatments

Colic Symptoms & Causes

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What is colic?

If your child is otherwise well, but cries or is fussy for long periods of time with no apparent reason, he may have colic. This crying may go one for hours at a time.

There are several theories about why colic may occur:

  • The baby is still adjusting to the world and may be reacting poorly to things like light or loud noises.
  • Oversensitivity to gas in the baby's intestines may cause discomfort.
  • Babies and parents take time to adjust to each other and the parents may not have learned how to interpret what their baby wants.

Is colic common?

Up to 30 percent of normal, healthy babies have colic. It affects boys and girls equally.

Is colic something the babies inherit from parents and grandparents?

There is no evidence that colic runs in families.

What are the symptoms of colic?

  • Your child is otherwise well but cries or is fussy for long periods of time.
  • Fussiness associated with colic typically occurs from 6 to 10 p.m.
  • Babies with colic may burp or pass gas frequently, but this is thought to be due to swallowing air while crying (an effect of colic, not a cause).

Is colic a cause for concern?

Colic is not typically a cause for concern, but it can have some unpleasant side effects:

  • It's frustrating and stressful to parents.
  • Both you and your child lose sleep.
  • You may be tempted to over feed your baby in an attempt to stop the crying.

Despite this, a child with colic should still grow and gain weight normally.

You should also look for other symptoms that may indicate that your child has something other than colic. These may include:

  • not sucking or drinking a bottle well
  • drinking less milk than usual
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • becoming more irritable when held or touched
  • strange sounding cry
  • change in breathing rate or effort
  • being more sleepy or sluggish than usual

Contact your child's physician if you notice any of these symptoms, or if your baby is crying excessively. Your child's physician will examine your child to make sure other problems are not present that might be causing colic-like symptoms.

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