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What is colic?

Colic is inconsolable crying that lasts 2-4 hours per day at least 3 days per week. It often occurs in the evening. Colic usually begins between 2-4 weeks of age although it occasionally is earlier or later. Colicky crying is very extreme but is harmless to the baby and has no known medical cause. Although it causes no problems for the baby, it can be very distressing for parents.

What causes colic?
We do not know what causes colic. It used to be considered a stomach problem and severe gas. Although some infants will certainly develop gas as they cry, gas itself is less commonly considered the cause. The current thought is that colic is a developmental stage that some infants pass through as their nervous systems mature. They seem to be sensitive to their environment and feel over-stimulated. By the evening, they only know to respond by crying.

Colic affects about 25-30% of infants and affects boys and girls equally. It usually appears around 2-4 weeks of age and often disappears by 3 months. If it still lasts beyond 4 months, see your pediatrician.

Colic is not the parents’ fault. It is not related to how/what/when the parent fed them. It is not due the infant being “spoiled”.

What does colic look like?
A child with colic will cry inconsolably. They may get red in the face, draw up their legs and pass gas. They rarely will be settled with a bottle or diaper change. Often this crying will last 2-4 hours and end with an exhausted baby who falls asleep.
If your child is crying inconsolably, ask yourself these questions:

Is he hungry?
Does she have a dirty diaper?
Is he cold or hot?
Is she sleepy or tired?
Does he need to be held?
Is there any possible pain? Gas? Tight clothing? Hair tourniquet around finger/toes?

If the answer to these questions is no, then you may be dealing with colic.

What do I do if my child has colic?
Unfortunately, colic has no medical treatment. The following measures work for some babies:

If your baby is formula fed, it may help to change the formula. Talk to your doctor before doing so.

If your baby is breastfed, Mom’s diet should be examined. If it seems worse following dairy products, eliminate these from your diet for two weeks. Other foods that may help to eliminate include onions, garlic, cabbage, cucumbers, and spicy foods. Certainly, caffeine and alcohol can be passed through the breast milk and should be minimized.

Medications may help to relieve the symptoms of gas that may accompany colic. These include simethicone (Mylicon®) drops or “gripe water” which are available over the counter.

In the past, some physicians have used Levsin® (hyoscyamine) drops for colic. This medicine tends to cause several side effects so is used with much less frequency now.

To soothe babies who are crying, try one or all of the following:

–swaddle him in a blanket
–rock or walk with her or place her in a swing
–try wearing her in a pouch or front carrier close to you
–loudly say “shhh” close to his ear
–play soothing music or a sound machine next to her bed
–tape record the sounds of a vacuum cleaner or hairdryer

Remember also to take care of yourself. Having a baby with colic can be stressful and frustrating. Parents can reach a breaking point and need to get away. Take advantage of friends or family members who offer to help. Ask your spouse to take over for 1-2 hours while you get away.

Most babies outgrow colic by 3-4 months of age. Remember, colic does end! If you have any concerns or questions concerning your crying baby, always feel free to make an appointment to let your doctor check him out.

The above information was obtained from a variety of sources including: Guide To Your Child’s Symptoms, Donald Schiff, MD and Steven Shelov, MD, American Academy of Pediatrics, 1997.