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What is colic?

Colic is defined by persistent unexplained crying in a healthy, well-fed baby between the ages of 2 weeks ad 5 months. Colic is not a disease and occurs in 10-20% of babies, although it is more common in boys than girls and with the first child of a family. The symptoms appear at 14-21 days, peak at 3 months and usually resolves at the age of 5 months.
Colic episodes occur frequently but intermittently and usually begin with prolonged periods of crying in the late afternoon or evening, lasting from several minutes to a few hours.

Causes and symptoms

There is no known specific causes for colic. It maybe the result of swallowing large amounts of air that has become trapped in the digestive tract causing bloating and severe abdominal pain.

Other possible causes could be:

  1. Digestive tract immaturity (irregular gastrointestinal peristalsis and other unintegrated autonomic functions).
  2. Food intolerance.
  3. Hunger or overfeeding.
  4. Lack of sleep.
  5. Loneliness.
  6. Over-heated milk or formula.
  7. Over-stimulation (noise, light or activity).

During a colicky episode, the baby's belly may look swollen, feel hard and make a rumbling sound. Baby's crying intensifies, tapers off and then gets louder while the baby may grow rigid, clench fists, curl toes and draw their legs up towards their body.

Burping or bowel movement can ease or end a colic attack and there is no noticeable pain between attacks. Usually, episodes occur during the late afternoon and evening hours and may follow increased stimulation from the parents.

Prolonged and severe colic (persisting until the latter part of the first year of life) occurs more commonly in infants who are overactive and tense from birth. There is also some evidence to suggest there maybe a relationship between colic and an increase of activity in-utero and an increase in maternal anxiety during pregnancy.
Maternal and family tensions, as well as possible allergic tendencies have also been implicated.


Colic is suspected in an infant who:

  1. Has cried loudly for at least 3 hours a day, three days a week for at least three weeks.
  2. Cries for several hours between the late afternoon and midnight but is not hungry.
  3. Demonstrates clenched fists, rigidity and other traits associated with colic.

Parents' medical history and their description of the eating, crying and sleeping patterns of the baby are used to confirm the diagnosis. To rule out infection, intestinal blockage and other conditions that cause abdominal pain and colic-like symptoms, physical examination and laboratory tests are also required.


It is generally advised that parents take a practical approach to the treatment of Colic, as there is no medicinal cure. A gentle massage to baby's back can help to relieve trapped gas bubbles, as holding baby in a sitting position while feeding can prevent the swallowing of air.

If the nipple on a bottle is either too big or too small the baby may swallow air (correct size is one drop of formula every second).
Babies should not be fed every time they cry, but feeding and burping a baby can alleviate the symptoms of Colic. Bottle fed babies should be burped after every ounce of feed and breast fed babies after 5 minutes of feeding.

Colicky babies can be soothed by motion, for example, a wind-up swing, a car ride or being carried in parents' arms, or by a warm water bottle next to their abdomen. A pacifier can soothe a baby and will do no harm. If colic is prolonged or severe more sucking time during feeding maybe required for emotional satisfaction.

Over-stimulation should be avoided during the first three months of a baby's life. Prevent this by rocking in a quiet darkened room. Baby also calms when cuddled in a soft warm blanket. Mother should be more responsive to cries in the first three months of life. This can be<

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