What is colic?

22 January 2016
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22 January 2016, Comments: 0

Colic is one of the reasons why babies cry. Infants cry for various reasons. When an infant cries, it is how they tell us that they need something – might be hungry, soiled diaper, needs more or less stimulation or want to be held. Even though crying is not usual for all infants, those with colic cry more, difficult to console, have disrupted sleep and can cause anxiety for the parents.

If the crying child could not be comforted, the cause might be colic. This is a term used to describe healthy infants who cry a lot and hard to comfort. The cause is still uncertain and usually has the following characteristics:

  • Timing – Usually starts at around 2 weeks of age and vanishes by 4 months old. In a day, the crying is concentrated late in the afternoon and evening.
  • Behavior – Episodes of crying are extended and could not be comforted even with feeding. The infant clenches his/her fists, legs bent over the abdomen, passing of gas, arched back, rigid swollen abdomen, actively grimacing or has a “painful” look on the face.

Indications of colic


If the crying child could not be comforted, the cause might be colic.

Infants with colic have periods of inconsolable crying that can last for hours without any break and difficult to comfort. Take note that these periods of fussiness are not connected to discomfort or hunger and the child is otherwise normal.

The infant may appear to be in pain along with clenching fists, arched backs or pulling their legs up to the tummy. In addition, the face of the infant might turn red after a prolonged period of crying. Even though the child cries and fussy, he/she continues to eat well and gain weight.

Potential causes

The exact cause is still unknown but there are certain factors that might play a role such as the following:

  • Reflux of stomach contents
  • Gas
  • Food allergies
  • Maternal or family tension
  • Milk intolerance

Management of colic

Remember that there is no cure for colic but there are steps that can help soothe the child.

  • Singing or talking to the child
  • Rocking in your arms or rocking chair while swaying from side to side
  • Swaddling with a receiving blanket
  • Gently stroke the head or pat on his/her chest or back
  • Play soft music
  • Rhythmic noise and vibration
  • Decrease stimulation
  • Warm bath
  • Properly burping the child to relieve any trapped gas
  • Walking the child using a stroller or carriage
  • When nursing, eliminate milk products, caffeine, cabbage, onions and other irritating foods from the diet.
  • Introduce the use of a pacifier

Always bear in mind that colic can be frightening especially for first-time parents. On the other hand, the condition is not harmless to the overall health of the child. Babies with colic eventually outgrow the condition once they reach 3-4 months old.

When to consult a doctor

A doctor should be consulted if the child has unusual changes in behavior with the following:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Forceful vomiting
  • Blood in the stools

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