Colic is when a healthy baby cries for a very long time, for no obvious reason. It is a common uncontrollable distress in a healthy baby during the first 6 weeks of life and affects 10-40% of all babies worldwide.
What is colic?
Colic usually starts a few weeks after birth and tends to peak around 6 weeks. Between months 3-4, it usually improves significantly. Your baby may have colic if they cry more than 3 hours a day, 3 days a week for at least 1 week.
Although colic isn’t a disease, it can be a huge burden to you and your partner.
What are the signs of colic?
- The symptoms occur when your baby is less than 5 months old.
- Cries for what seems like no reason even after eating or having the diaper changed
- Starts to cry in the evening, or at the same time every day
- Makes sounds that are more intense than normal, more like a high-pitched scream than a cry
- Recurrent and prolonged periods of crying, fussing, or irritability cannot be prevented, resolved, or soothed even with feeding and rocking.
- No evidence of infant failure to thrive, fever, or illness
What causes colic?
Colic is a bit of a mystery, and we still have no sure answer about the cause. The following are things that may cause colic:
- The temperament might be sensitive and needs more attention
- Poorly developed nervous system
- Unusually high sensitivity to stimulation
- Breastfed babies may be disturbed by their mothers’ diets (Studies have linked colic to mothers who drink cows’ milk)
- Formula-fed babies may not be comfortable with certain proteins in the formula
- Excessive feeding
- Too much intestinal gas from air swallowed while crying
- Not belching after feeding
- Reflux of acids into the esophagus
What to do?
Talk with your pediatrician about your baby’s crying. He can rule out other potential causes, like intestinal problems or urinary infections, and he can check whether your baby is growing normally.
Tips to cope with colic:
- Prepare meals ahead of time to avoid being distracted during the screaming sessions
- Let your partner or other family members help you with the baby during the hardest hours
- When the crying gets to you emotionally, put the baby down in a safe place and take some time to gather yourself — remember that this is only for a period of time and happy days are waiting
- Catch some sleep whenever your baby is sleeping so that you are well-rested
- Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean your baby is unwell, and it is not your fault — you’re not a bad mother, and you’re not doing something wrong — it’s colic, and it will go away
Long-term side effects: Whether colic causes physical or psychological long-term side effects on your baby remains unclear. Some research shows that untreated post-colicky infants demonstrated negative behavioral patterns at 2 to 3 years of age. Toddlers who were treated with chiropractic care for colic were twice as likely to not experience long-term sequelae of infant colic, such as temper tantrums.
Dr. Piyawut Kreetapirom, MD. (20 March 2019)
- The New Rome IV Criteria for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders in Infants and Toddlers, National Center for Biotechnology Information
- Long-term Effects of Infant Colic: A Survey Comparison of Chiropractic Treatment and Nontreatment Groups, National Center for Biotechnology Information
- Infantile Colic: Recognition and Treatment, JEREMY D. JOHNSON, MD, MPH; KATHERINE COCKER, DO; and ELISABETH CHANG, MD, Tripler Army Medical Center, Honolulu, Hawaii
- Colic in Babies, Web MD
- Colic, NHS