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What is colic?

Colic is a problem that affects some babies during the first three to four months after they're born. If your child is healthy but cries or is fussy for long periods of time with no apparent reason, she may have colic.

  • Up to 30 percent of normal, healthy babies have colic.
  • Boys and girls are equally affected.
  • Physicians are not sure what causes colic.
  • The primary concerns about colic are the stress it causes in parents and the lack of sleep it causes parents and babies.
  • Before assuming your child has colic, you should look for other signs of illness.
  • The symptoms of colic usually resolve by the time a baby is about 4 months old.

Colic | Symptoms & Causes

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.

Colic | Diagnosis & Treatments

How do we diagnose colic?

After examining your baby and obtaining a medical history, a doctor may ask about how long and how often your child cries, if you have noticed anything that seems to trigger the crying and what comfort measures are effective, if any. Other tests may be done, but only if the doctor suspects there are other problems present.

How do we treat colic?

Remember that babies will cry for a certain length of time every day under normal circumstances. Learning how to interpret your baby's cry can take time, but is helpful in dealing with colic. The symptoms of colic usually resolve by the time a baby is about four months old, but in the meantime, here are some additional suggestions:

  • Make sure your baby is not hungry, but don't force feed if he is not interested in the bottle or breast.
  • Change your baby's position regularly. Babies like to see different views of the world.
  • Give your baby interesting things to look at: different shapes, colors, textures, and sizes.
  • Talk to and sing softly to your baby.
  • Rock and walk your baby.
  • Place your baby in an infant swing on a slow setting.
  • Rub your baby's back while he or she lays on your lap or on the bed.
  • Go for a ride in the car. The motion of the car often soothes babies.
  • Try using something in your child's room that makes a repetitive sound, like a ticking clock or heartbeat audio tape.
  • Hold and cuddle your baby. Your baby can't be spoiled by too much attention.
  • Take a break and let an adult family member or friend care for your baby from time to time. Taking care of yourself lowers your stress level and may help your baby as well.

Colic | Programs & Services