The First 1000 Days: Baby Colic
What is baby colic?
Colic is a general term used to describe the inconsolable crying of an otherwise healthy infant. Colic in babies may be diagnosed if bub is crying for more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 times a week for more than 3 weeks.
Symptoms of colic in babies
While it’s normal for newborn babies to cry, colicky crying is often characterized by:
- clenched fists
- drawn up legs
- red face
- arching of back
These signs give the appearance that baby is experiencing gastrointestinal pain. Unlike normal infant crying, colic often establishes a pattern where bouts of crying begin and finish at the same time each day.
Can a newborn have colic?
Colic usually appears 2 to 3 weeks after birth and peaks at about 5 to 8 weeks, often resolving spontaneously by 4 months of age. Although colic is not harmful and resolves on its own, it can be the cause of parental stress and anxiety as well as increasing the risk for maternal depression. It is also not uncommon for parents to become frustrated with a colicky baby, especially during a sleep-deprived state, increasing the risk for child abuse and shaken baby syndrome.
Do all babies get colic?
Newborn colic effects up to 20% of babies worldwide, however it is not known exactly why some babies develop colic and others do not. Researchers have some theories such as reduced beneficial bacteria in the infant gut and intolerance to cow’s milk protein which is thought to contribute to increased gastrointestinal pain and gas, causing colic in baby.
Does my baby have colic?
If your baby cry’s for more than 3 hours a day on most of the week and for longer than 3 weeks, it is possible that your baby may have colic. To confirm that your baby does in fact have colic, and not another condition such as reflux, you should speak with your pediatrician and follow guidance from a health care professional.
How to soothe a colic baby
A colicky infant is also generally inconsolable however you can provide comfort by trying these soothing techniques:
- Swaddle baby and offer plenty of cuddles
- Lay baby across your lap and gently rub their back
- Use a dummy or let baby self sooth on the breast
- Give baby a warm bath
- Try baby massage
- Put baby in a wearable carrier and go for a walk (or walk the hallways in your home)
- Take baby for a stroll in the pram
- Lucassen PL et al. Arch Dis Child 2001;84:398-403.
- Camilleri M et al. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2017;29(2):10.