Colic in Infants: Understanding and Treating

Colic in infants is the first major challenge for parents. The persistent shrieking of the colicky baby turns the elated motherhood into frustrating and fearful exasperation. However, parents aware of the problem are better placed to deal with the distress and prevent it from overwhelming their life.

Colic in infants is common between 2nd and 8th weeks


A newborn uses crying to communicate with parents and convey her needs. However, when the crying becomes persistent and inconsolable, it may be an indication of colic in infants. With no soothing method yielding a desirable result, it makes parents virtually powerless to comfort the child. The uncontrolled screaming of the baby gives parents anxious moments. With no comforting or feeding able to calm down the child, colic becomes a psychosocial issue for the whole family.

Despite giving tense and torrid moments, colic in infants is temporary and does not linger beyond the first few months. About 40 percent of newborns experience the problem between the first and fourth months of their lives. However, colic is not a disease, but a condition collectively perpetrates by certain symptoms.

An understanding of colicky baby symptoms is crucial for parents to soothe the baby, refrain from panicking, and manage the challenge in an effective way.  Managing colic in infants occupies an important place the list of essential things to know about newborn baby care at home.

What is colic in infants?

Inconsolable crying is the most significant sign of colic in infants. When a baby continues to fret or cry over 3 hours a day, exceeding 3 days a week, and the condition persists beyond 3 weeks, she is considered a colicky baby. Hunger, pain, sleep, or exhaustion may also cause a baby to cry and the colic diagnosis must first rule out these as possible reasons.

Colic usually starts in the second or third week following the birth of the child. Even healthy and thriving babies cry persistently and excessively when they have colic.

A colicky baby is hard to be comforted. The crying becomes more intense with efforts to calm down the baby fail to yield favorable results. There may be or may not be gas in the intestine.

What are common signs of a colicky baby?

Colic in infants is characterized by the following symptoms,

  • the baby starts crying suddenly and cries vigorously for long without any visible reason
  • the baby is healthy and feeding, but crying excessively
  • persistent crying for at least 3 hours every day for more than 3 days a week exceeding 3 weeks
  • crying can be there at any time but turns intense in the evening
  • abdomen pain in the baby with or without gas
  • swollen belly with the gas passing out
  • the colicky baby is inconsolable and raises the pitch even when comforted
  • symptoms soothe after a bowel movement or gas pass
ALSO READ:  Infant Feeding Tips for Mothers

What is the cause of colic in infants?

The exact reason behind colic in babies is a mystery. It is best viewed as an amalgamation of many factors, such as

  • gastrointestinal bacteria
  • intolerance to lactose/ breast milk
  • gas in the stomach
  • stomach cramps
  • food allergies
  • indigestion
  • parenting factors
  • immature digestive tract
  • overstimulated senses
  • prenatal tobacco exposure
  • the diet of the mother

The most plausible theory is about gastrointestinal discomfort impacting the intestine. Derived from the Greek term “kolon” meaning the intestine, colic in infants is prominently marked by abdominal pain linked to gastrointestinal factors.

However, there are also colicky babies without gas. The explanation points out to the diet of the breastfeeding mother. Research associates colic in infants with excessive intake of soybean foods, dairy products, spices, chocolate, calcium-rich food, and certain citrus fruits by breastfeeding mothers.

Who is at the risk of becoming a colicky baby?

Notwithstanding breastfed or bottle-fed, colic symptoms are more visible in a baby who

  • eats too much or too less
  • eats quickly
  • intakes more amount of air while eating
  • is allergic or born to a mother allergic to certain foods
  • is surrounded by a stressful environment
  • starts formula milk or cereals early
  • is prone to light and sound sensitivity
  • is missing the smooth console of the womb
  • has troubled sleep

Why is it difficult to soothe a colicky baby?

Colic in infants makes them inconsolable. The heart rate sees a sudden increase when a baby starts crying. In the case of a colicky baby, the body is found to be unable to normalize the heartbeat. This makes baby’s crying intensive for a longer duration.

When does colic in infants start and end?

Colic sets in with abdominal pain around the second or third week with signs similar to gas or obstruction in the intestines. The baby suffers the most intense symptoms during the second month before the problem starts to fade out. It resolves on its own and there is no sign of colic in infants after fourth months.

How to provide relief to a colicky baby?

There is no effective way to treat colic in infants. The best way is to manage the symptoms based on awareness and common sense. An infant is too fragile for any drug treatment and the problem usually does not respond to any medication. It is best to comfort the baby by keeping the infant in a side position, swaddling and swinging the baby, blow raspberries on the tummy, making shushing noises, and other ways to promote baby’s calming reflex.

Gripe water too helps in ensuring relief from gas. Other effective ways may include shifting positions of the baby, creating soothing noises, utilizing the infants’ penchant for sucking, saying shh loudly, taking the baby for a ride, doing a little bit of body massage, and keeping the baby close to you.

ALSO READ:  11 Breastfeeding Tips for New Mothers

Tips to manage colic in infants

  • Keep a colic diary with the detailed observation about colic episodes in your baby. It makes you able to anticipate the problem and prepare yourself to manage the baby.
  • Gripe water is an effective way to treat gas-induced colic in infants.
  • Apply gentle pressure on colicky baby’s abdomen or blow raspberries on her tummy. It provides momentary relief and minimizes the crying intensity.
  • Soothing sounds have a great effect in calming down the crying tone of a colicky baby. It also diverts the attention of the child.
  • Swinging the baby or taking her for a ride too has calming effects.
  • A breastfeeding mother must include a high amount of dietary fiber and probiotics in her diet.
  • The mother must avoid unnecessary medications, tobacco, caffeine, curry spices, and high-calcium foods for a few months.
  • Try to address colic in infants from the psychosocialpoint of view.
  • Ensure your pregnancy diet does not contain anything that may cause the baby to born with allergies.
Ravneet Kaur
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Ravneet Kaur

Ravneet is a proficient author on mindful parenting, child psychology, and pregnancy-related issues. Her practical writing focuses on helping parents develop a compassionate understanding of child behavior and build strong family bonds. She also researches and writes on women’s health, pregnancy problems, relationship issues, teens, and child development and education.
Ravneet also blogs at
Ravneet Kaur
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