Coping with Colic

Written by Debra Luben, M.D. on Mar 26, 2016, 7:30:00 AM

Colic affects between 5 percent and 25 percent of infants between 2 weeks and 4 months old. If you have a baby that cries predictably for at least three hours a day with no end in sight, you might have a colicky baby on your hands. While there may not be a whole lot you can do about it in the interim, just knowing what colic is and being aware that there is indeed an end in sight might help you gain some peace of mind. 

What Is Colic?

This is a tricky question, because colic isn’t necessarily one thing. The word “colic” has basically become a catch-all phrase for a set of symptoms. Basically, if your child is within the above age range and cries for more than three hours a day for more than three days a week, for at least three weeks, your baby is considered to have colic. These crying episodes are normally predictable as far as timing goes and tend to happen during the evening. 

Colic is usually diagnosed when other potential reasons for crying have been ruled out, such as gastrointestinal illnesses, infantile migraines or allergies. 

Colic used to be considered a result of intestinal problems like gas pain or reflux; however, this isn’t believed to be the case anymore as there has been no reliable study linking the two. The underlying causes of the crying aren’t always known, but evidence has shown that less than 5 percent of babies who cry excessively have an underlying organic issue.


What Are the Effects of Colic?

The good and bad news about colic are the same: Even though you may have an unhappy baby on your hands, colic tends to affect you as the caregiver the most. Many new moms feel a great deal of stress and anxiety over a colicky baby, which can lead to short-term depression and irritability. This in turn can cause stress within the family. Ultimately, however, there seems to be no long-term effects for infants who have colic. 

How Can I Treat it?

The first thing to do is take your baby to the doctor to make sure there isn’t an underlying organic issue, like constipation, lactose intolerance or an ear infection. If your doctor determines your baby has colic, there may not be much you can do. Because there isn’t a specifically-known cause of colic, there isn’t one treatment. There aren’t any medications available that are both safe and effective for your baby. 

Some parents have found that swaddling the baby with his or legs flexed, gently swinging the baby from side to side or holding the baby on his or her side helps. Other moms find that a pacifier or breastfeeding helps. Some evidence suggests that occasionally, a hypoallergenic diet by a breastfeeding mom may make things a little better, which means not eating milk products, eggs, wheat or nuts. 

The most important thing to remember is to try and stay calm. If you’ve taken your child to the doctor and know your baby is otherwise healthy, fed and clean, all you can do to ease their crying is to be there to soothe them.






Dr. Debra Luben is a board-certified pediatrician at Main Campus whose clinical interests are centered on preventive medicine and wellness.




Topics: colic, colicky baby, treatments for colic


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