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What is colic?
Colic is when an otherwise healthy baby cries or fusses frequently for no clear reason. Colic is defined as a baby whose crying lasts for more than 3 hours a day at least 3 days per week for more than 3 weeks. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to relieve your baby’s crying. Managing colic can add stress to already tired or stressed new parents.
Colic can start a few weeks after birth. It’s generally the worst between 4 and 6 weeks of age. Babies usually grow out of colic by the time they are 3 to 4 months old.
It’s normal for babies to fuss and cry. Babies who have colic cry more than most babies, even though they’re otherwise healthy. Other features of colic can include:
- Crying for no obvious reason. As examples, they’re not hungry or don’t need a diaper change.
- Crying around the same time(s) each day. Colicky babies often get fussy toward the end of the day. However, the crying can happen at any time.
- Clenching their fists when crying or curling up their legs.
- Crying like they’re in pain.
- Turning bright red when crying.
When your baby cries, they can swallow air. This may give your baby gas. It can make their tummy look swollen or feel tight. They might show some relief in symptoms after passing gas or having a bowel movement (pooping).
Healthcare providers aren’t sure what causes colic. Researchers have looked into many possible reasons. Some of the contributing factors could include:
- Pain or discomfort from gas or indigestion
- A digestive system that isn’t fully developed
- Overfeeding or underfeeding
- Sensitivity to formula or breast milk
- Early form of childhood migraine headache
- Emotional reaction to fear, frustration, or excitement
Your baby’s healthcare provider can diagnose colic. They will do a physical exam and review your baby’s history and symptoms. The healthcare provider might perform some tests to rule out other possible problems.
Can colic be prevented or avoided?
You can’t prevent or avoid your baby from being colicky
Colic may be triggered by certain things. There are ways you can avoid these triggers. There are also things you can try to help soothe your baby and reduce their crying.
If you’re feeding your baby formula:
- Your healthcare provider might suggest trying a different brand.
- Try feeding your baby smaller meals but more often
- Avoid feeding your baby too much or too quickly. One bottle feeding should last about 20 minutes. If your baby eats faster, try using a nipple with a smaller hole. This will slow down their feeding.
- Try warming the formula to body temperature.
- Try feeding your baby in an upright position
Holding your baby
Sometimes babies who have colic will respond to different ways of being held or rocked.
- Hold your baby across your lap and massage their back.
- Hold your baby upright if they have gas
- Hold your baby in the evening.
- Hold your baby while walking.
- Rock your baby in your arms or by using an infant swing.
Comforting your baby
- Try these movements and stimuli to sooth your baby.
- Provide extra skin-to-skin contact.
- Swaddle your baby. This mean wrapping them in a blanket.
- Sing to your baby.
- Give your baby a warm (not hot) bath or put a warm towel on their stomach.
- Massage your baby. Ask your healthcare provider for guidelines.
- Provide white noise, such as a fan, vacuum cleaner, washing machine, hair dryer, or dishwasher.
- Go for a walk with your baby in their stroller. Or go for a drive with your baby in their car seat.
Living with colic
Colic doesn’t cause any short-term or long-term problems for your baby. But colic can be difficult for parents. It can be hard to care for babies who don’t stop crying. You may feel overwhelmed or frustrated. If you’re feeling this way, it’s important to ask for help. Ask someone close to you to help watch your baby. Never shake or harm your child. Shaking a baby can cause serious brain damage and even death. If you feel like you might shake or harm your baby, get help right away.
- The following are things to keep in mind about colic.
- You didn’t cause the colic, so try not to feel guilty.
- Colic will go away. Most babies outgrow it by the time they are 3 to 4 months old.
- Just because your baby has colic doesn’t mean they’re unhealthy.
- There are many ways to soothe your baby.
- Giving your baby extra attention, such as holding them for extended periods, won’t spoil them.
Contact your baby’s healthcare provider if:
- Your baby’s crying is mixed with a fever, vomiting, loose or bloody stools, or decreased movement.
- Your baby’s crying or behavior changes all of a sudden.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Caring for Kids Website
About Kids Health Website