What is Colic?

Jill Holtz

November 10, 2011


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Are you concerned your baby might have colic? If you would like to know more, this quick guide to colic may help.

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What is Colic?

Infant colic is a common condition, affecting around 1 in 5 infants in their first month of life. However, it is not a serious medical condition and usually resolves by the age of 3-4 months. Colic is usually recognised by bouts of inconsolable crying, often for hours at a time, for no specific reason – i.e. your baby is not hungry, overtired, needs a nappy change or has a raised temperature.

Despite medical research, no one is certain what causes infant colic. A likely explanation may be the build up of trapped wind in your baby’s bowel causing pain and discomfort.

Colic most commonly occurs in the late afternoon and evening when your baby may cry out in pain, draw her knees up to her chest and go red in the face. Her tummy may be swollen or bloated as if she’s swallowed a lot of air, and she might pass wind more than usual.

A colicky baby can be very distressing for everyone in the house. Listening to long periods of crying can leave you feeling tired, stressed and emotionally drained. Despite the intensity of your baby’s cries, it is important to remember that colic is not a serious medical condition.

Signs of Colic

  • Inconsolable bouts of forceful crying with no apparent trigger
  • Baby draws knees up to chest
  • Swollen stomach
  • Cramping
  • Passes wind more than usual
  • May get worse in the evening

The following are NOT associated with colic:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Raised Temperature (over 38°C/100°F)

If your baby experiences diarrhoea, vomiting or a raised temperature (over 38°C/100°F) or if you are uncertain whether your baby is suffering from colic, seek guidance from your health visitor, midwife or family doctor immediately.

What Causes Colic?

Despite medical research, no one is certain exactly what causes colic.

A likely explanation may be the build up of small bubbles of trapped wind in your baby’s tummy, which cause pain and discomfort.

Treating Colic

Here are a few techniques you can try:

  • Feed only a little at a time and try to avoid them gulping in too much air.
  • Try changing your diet if you breastfeed.
  • Try a different formula if you bottle feed
  • Motion helps calm babies. Walk around with your baby in a sling carrier on your front. Or sit in a rocking chair.
  • Use sound to calm your baby. Many babies respond well to the gentle hum of some machines, such as dryers or vacuums
  • Calm your baby in a quiet dark room, rubbing their back.

It is important to bear in mind that it is not your fault – both breast and bottle fed babies can suffer from colic, and as your baby gets older it will grow out of it.

In the meantime don’t despair! It may help to talk to other mums and share your experiences so that you don’t feel you are the only one with a crying baby to cope with.

You might also find Teething and What You Can Expect useful

Have you experienced colic with your baby? Have you any advice? Share it with us in the comments below.

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