Colic is when a healthy baby cries for a very long time, for no obvious reason. It is most common during the first 6 weeks of life. It usually goes away on its own by age 3 to 4 months. Up to 1 in 4 newborn babies may have it.
Colic is defined as when a baby’s crying:
Colic often begins suddenly, with loud and mostly nonstop crying. This constant, extreme crying can be very stressful and difficult for parents.
Babies with colic are often fussy, gassy, and don't sleep well. But in most cases they grow and gain weight normally.
Colic will go away on its own. This often happens by age 3 months, and in most cases by age 6 months.
Experts don’t know for sure what causes colic. There are a few theories about why it happens. Colic may occur when babies:
Other theories about what causes colic are less likely. These include:
A healthy baby may have colic if he or she cries or is fussy for several hours a day, for no obvious reason. Colicky babies often cry from 6 p.m. to midnight.
Colicky crying is louder, more high-pitched, and more urgent sounding than regular crying. Colicky babies can be very hard to calm down.
Babies who have colic may show symptoms such as:
The symptoms of colic can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. You may be asked questions such as:
Blood tests and X-rays or other imaging tests may be done. These can help find out if your baby has other health problems.
There are many tips for helping to soothe and deal with a colicky baby. Know that this is a common problem for new babies. Talk with your child's healthcare provider to find out more about colic and what you can do.
If your baby is bottle-fed, it may help to use a curved bottle. This lets you hold your baby in an upright position.
To reduce the amount of air your baby swallows during feeding, burp your baby often. Using a bottle with a collapsible bag or liner may also help.
Learning how to understand your baby's cry can help in dealing with colic. It takes some time for parents and babies to get used to each other. Also remember that it’s normal for babies to cry for a certain amount of time every day.
What works for one baby may not work for another. Other suggestions to try include:
If your baby is bottle-fed and these methods don’t work, your child’s healthcare provider may recommend a 1-week trial of a non-milk-based formula.
If you breastfeed your baby, the provider may suggest that you avoid foods that are likely to cause an allergic reaction. This means that you should not have milk, eggs, nuts, or wheat for a period of time.
Dealing with a colicky baby is stressful. It may help to let someone care for your baby from time to time. Ask an adult family member, friend, or a responsible babysitter. It’s important to take a break. Taking care of yourself and reducing your stress level may help your baby as well.
Colic may become a concern because:
Having a colicky baby can be very stressful for parents. It can make you feel tired, guilty, and even depressed. Your baby's healthcare provider can suggest some things to do that may help to calm your baby. It’s important to know that colic is a common condition in young babies. It will go away on its own, often by age 3 months. In most cases it is gone by age 6 months.
If possible, have someone else watch your baby when you become stressed. If no one else is available, make sure your baby is safe and go into another room. Distract yourself from your baby's cries. Crying will not hurt your baby. Some communities have free or low-cost care called respite nurseries. You can leave your baby there for short periods of time.
Before assuming your child has colic, look for other signs of illness. These may include:
Call your child's healthcare provider if you see any of these symptoms. Also call if your baby is crying too much. Your child's provider will give your baby an exam. This is to make sure that there are no other health problems causing your baby’s symptoms.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider: