A crying baby

What is Colic?

Colic is a fairly common condition that affects newborns and infants. It is characterized by periods of significant distress in a baby that is otherwise completely healthy and well-fed. It is typical for babies with colic to cry for no apparent reason for more than three hours per day, three days a week, for three weeks or longer. Despite the nature of the condition, it's not believed that babies with colic are generally in pain. This is evidenced by the fact that distracting children with colic can temporarily disrupt their crying—something that would not happen if a child was physically hurting. 

Here is a look at the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatments for this condition.

Colic Symptoms

While fussing is normal for infants, crying doesn’t mean that they have colic. The exact signs and symptoms of colic include:

  • Intense or inconsolable crying: A baby with colic will not be able to be comforted.

  • Crying that occurs for no apparent reason: While crying typically means your baby needs something, the crying that is associated with colic will have no clear cause.

  • Predictable crying episodes: It is common for babies with colic to begin crying around the same time each day, usually in the late afternoon or evening. The episodes can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours or more.

  • Posture changes: It is common for a baby having a colic episode to have curled up legs, clenched fists, and tensed abdominal muscles.

Colic Causes

There is currently no known cause for colic. However, there are some possibilities that researchers have looked into, such as allergies, lactose intolerance, changes in the normal bacteria found in the digestive system, a digestive system that hasn’t fully developed, anxious parents, or differences in the ways a baby is fed or comforted. Despite this research, it is still not clear why some babies will develop colic while others will not.

Colic Diagnosis

Colic is diagnosed through process of elimination. This means that your doctor will do a physical examination in an attempt to identify any possible causes for your baby’s crying. However, if the baby appears to be healthy, they will likely be diagnosed with colic. The only reason that lab tests, X-rays, or other diagnostic tests would be used would be to rule out other possible conditions.

Colic Treatments

Usually, colic will go away on its own by the time your baby reaches three months of age. There are some possible treatments that may be able to help your baby, but no treatments have been proven to work consistently with every baby for this condition. These possible treatments include:

  • Gas-relief medications: Over-the-counter medications such as simethicone may help, but may not do much to relieve your baby’s discomfort.

  • Probiotics: Since it is suspected that babies with colic may have an imbalance of bacteria in their digestive tract, sometimes the balance can be restored with probiotics. Some studies have found promising results using probiotics to treat colic symptoms, but other unfortunately have not.

You can try these methods to treat your baby’s colic symptoms. However, currently there is not much that experts feel they can confidently recommend to parents who have a baby suffering from colic. Always be sure to talk with your baby’s doctor before giving them any medications to treat colic.

Last Updated: April 01, 2016