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Colic can be described as a behavioral syndrome that occurs in the early stages of infancy. Colic is characterized by long periods of crying during which parents usually have a hard time soothing their baby. This occurrence makes the baby hard to soothe. Colic occurs in usually healthy babies and that makes it hard for the parents to understand. About one out of five babies develop colic. This condition can present itself in the second or third week of the baby’s life and decline significantly after three to four months of age.



Babies generally are known to be fussy and cry occasionally, however, when that crying becomes intense, for example, three or more hours a day, three or more days a week, for three or more weeks we have a problem. If a baby becomes difficult to console this can cause parents a lot of discomfort and stress during this time.

When a baby has colic, they may exhibit the following symptoms: –

  • Intense crying, screaming, crying for no reason. This can happen during the day and is usually concentrated in the late afternoons and nights. Colic usually occurs without any warning and is one of the primary symptoms. Where there would be loud (much higher pitched and urgent sounding than regular crying) nonstop crying.
  • Fussiness. It is normal for a baby to get fussy, however, if prolonged it should be monitored.
  • Predictable timing. If the intense crying and fussiness occurs after the Two-to-three-week mark and occurs for more than three hours a day around late afternoon into night, it may just be colic.
  • Facial discoloration. Due to the nonstop crying, the baby’s face will change color (the face will redden)
  • Body tension. This includes an arched back, clenched fists, flexed legs, grimaces, and a hard swollen abdomen.
  • Curling up their legs towards their belly when they are crying. Studies have shown that folding or curling your legs towards your belly in baby’s is a sign of colic.
  • Burping often and passing gas. This may be caused due to a digestive issue or because they have been swallowing air while crying which creates gas.

Risk Factors

Any baby can become colicky. However, studies have shown that there are factors that can put babies at a greater risk: –

  • Preterm verses full-term pregnancies. Studies are now showing that pre-term babies may not suffer from colic with the same intensity as a full-term baby.
  • Formula fed babies. It is thought that because babies find it harder to digest food when they are young, they might develop stomach cramps in some cases.
  • Mothers that smoke. Mothers that smoke put their babies at risk of having colic because tobacco smoke appears to raise the levels of the gut hormone, motilin (in the blood and intestines). Motilin increases the contractions of the stomach and intestines increasing the movement of food through the gut undigested.
  • The foods mothers eat while breast feeding. Foods that cause a lot of intestinal gas should be avoided. Those are your cruciferous vegetables. They include cabbage, cauliflower, Bok choy, kale, Brussel sprouts and broccoli. They are high in fructans, which are difficult to digest and cause gas and bloating.


The cause of colic is generally unknown. However, here are a few suggestions: –

  • Digestive system that is not fully developed. The baby’s digestive system needs to develop. Sometimes it might be difficult to digest breast milk or formula.
  • Imbalance of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. As a baby’s gut develops, bacteria changes rapidly and may be out of balance. This will correct itself as the baby grows. Studies have shown that in babies that have colic, there were higher levels of proteobacteria in their guts as compared to babies without colic. Proteobacteria include bacteria that is known to produce gas.
  • Food allergies or intolerance. Food allergies can occur in babies using formula or even in babies that are using breast milk. In the cases of breast milk, a mother’s diet does influence the breast milk’s composition and therefore breast-feeding mothers should avoid certain foods. In terms of formulas, some babies may be allergic or develop an intolerance for such.
  • Overfeeding. When fed too much, a baby can swallow air which can produce gas, and this can lead to colic.
  • Underfeeding. Underfeeding can also cause a baby to develop wind. This will lead to discomfort in the stomach.
  • Infrequent burping. Babies should be burped after every feeding time. This would decrease the amount of gas they develop gas in their bodies and decrease uneasiness for them.
  • Maternal migraines. Studies have shown that mothers that have migraines increase the risk of their babies having colic.
  • Adjusting to their new world. Every baby has different personalities and therefore how they adjust to the outside world will be different. While some babies will adapt well to the environmental changes, others will not.
  • Immaturity of the nervous system. Babies are born with an immature nervous system which fully matures over the first few years of their lives. It has become a theory that this is one of the causes of colic. Coincidentally, the nervous system matures a bit more at three to four months, and that is when colic often stops.


If your baby is experiencing symptoms like the ones described above, the best thing for you to do is to take the baby to a doctor. The doctor would be able to diagnose the baby. It would be wise to keep a record of the baby’s crying patterns, sleeping patterns and food intake.



Colic can be stressful on the parents. Here are some ways to calm your baby down if they have colic: –

Traditional treatment

  • Swaddle your baby. Swaddling can be done using a blanket or a cloth. It gives the body tight feeling of the womb. This makes your baby feel calm and sleepy.
  • Hold your baby. Some babies may respond well to the different holds or ways that they are being rocked. Try holding your baby across your arm or lap while massaging their back. This will help if they have gas because it also puts added pressure on their tummies.
  • Turn on a calming sound or use white noise. White noise or calming music may calm your baby down and help them fall asleep. White noise can help your baby feel as though they are back in the womb.
  • Rock your baby. When in the womb, they were used to a lot of movement from the mother. Rocking them may put them right to sleep. You can then try the baby swing or an infant seat that vibrates.
  • Avoid overfeeding your baby. Gastrointestinal symptoms are linked to over feeding. This can result in colic.
  • If breast feeding, you can have a talk with your doctor and find out if the medications that you are taking or the foods that you are eating may be contributing colic in your baby. If you are using formula, you can try using another brand with the advice of a doctor of course.
  • Use a pacifier. Studies have shown that the use of pacifiers were able to soothe babies that have colic.
  • Comfort your baby, some parents may provide that extra skin to skin contact. Many babies love skin to skin contact.
  • See a doctor or health care professional. You should speak to doctor or health care professional to seek advice if you think your baby has colic.
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