What is Colic?

Colic is a common condition that causes distress for infants and parents alike. The most common symptom is fussiness. This may vary from being just irritable to constant screaming. Colicky babies often draw up their legs, tighten their muscles, clench their fists, and appear to be in pain. Symptoms usually begin around 2-3 weeks of age and resolve by 3-4 months of age. These episodes tend to occur in late afternoon through late evening and last from 30 minutes to 4-6 hours. The most classic symptom of colic is that for each individual infant, these fussy periods seem to hit around the same time every day.

What Causes Colic?

The exact cause of colic is unknown. For many years it has been though that colic is due to the sensitive or immature gastrointestinal tract of infants (” a sensitive stomach or gut”). Recently, there has been more focus on the consideration that it may actually be an immature or sensitive sensory or neurological phase. In other words, this may be a form of “stress release” from all the new stimulation an infant is exposed to after birth. A normal, healthy baby can average anywhere from ½ to 3 hours of crying each day between 2 and 12 weeks of age.

Some Points to Remember

*In the vast majority of cases, there is nothing physically wrong with your baby; babies with colic look normal, eat well, grown normally, and have no other significant symptoms (fever, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, etc.).

How to Deal with Colic

  • Attempt to cuddle and rock your baby (rocking chair, front pouch backpack, infant swing, car ride, walk in the stroller, rocking the bassinet or cradle).
  • Swaddle your infant, wrap them tightly in a blanket with their head free and hold them close.
  • Try a pacifier; feeding the baby each time they cry can actually cause more distress; it takes about 2 hours for a baby’s stomach to empty from formula (breastfed infants can be fed every 1-2 hours if needed.)
  • Give yourself permission to let your baby cry: if you know that your baby has been fed recently, the diaper has been changed, and you have tried the basic maneuvers of swaddling and holding or rocking, you may need to lay the infant in the crib or bassinet (on their back) and step out of the room in order to collect yourself.
  • There are no magical medicines to treat colic. Neighbors and family members always seem to have something that cured their infant. It is better to try the above measure, knowing that colic does not harm your infant and that they will grow out of it.

Corinth Family Medicine & Pediatrics
Karri Dutton, MD