what is colic, colic symptoms, crying baby, maternity, newborn crying

What is colic and how to deal with it

Having a newborn is an exciting and challenging experience. However, for parents with a colicky baby, it can be beyond challenging.

What is colic in newborns

Colic in newborns is a broad term.

“There is no standard definition of colic,” said Luis Garcia, MD, a pediatrician at OSF HealthCare.

“That’s what makes it so hard to manage. Because technically, we don’t know what we’re trying to manage.”

Dr. Garcia said if your baby is extremely fussy for more than three hours at a time at least three times a week, it may be colic.

“There is no harm to your baby. It’s just excessive and uncontrollable crying,” Dr. Garcia said.

The colic cry sometimes sounds a little different than the cry when a baby needs something. Colic crying sounds more like screaming crying.

If you’ve changed their diaper, fed them, held them and nothing is working to get them to stop crying, that’s usually considered colic.

Simply put, colic is episodes of fussiness or crying.

What causes colic?

“One of the theories is that there’s somehow increased gas or bloating. But, there’s not usually one thing that causes colic,” Dr. Garcia said.

It may be related to something in the mother’s diet if you’re breastfeeding. Some babies are sensitive to certain foods that moms eat, such as dairy or gluten.

What are the symptoms of colic?

Common symptoms of colic include:

  • Continued fussiness even after they’re calm
  • Uncontrollable crying often in the evening and at night
  • Crying when they have no reason to cry

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  • Intense crying and screaming that’s hard to soothe
  • Pale or red face when worked up
  • Tensed body, such as tight, stiff legs and arms, clenched fists and arched back

Colic episodes are especially common at night and in the evening.

“They could even have colic all day,” Dr. Garcia said.

How long does colic last?

“Know this is a temporary thing – even though it doesn’t feel like it at the time. It will pass,” Dr. Garcia said.

Colic is most common in babies that are 3 weeks to 3 months.

“It should be getting better by 3 months. It definitely shouldn’t be getting worse by then,” Dr. Garcia said.

If your baby is still crying uncontrollably after 3 or 4 months, it’s time to talk to the pediatrician. Your baby may have an underlying issue that is causing them pain or stress.

How to help a baby with colic

“The first thing to deal with colic is have patience,” Dr. Garcia said.

Babies with colic have a hard time falling and staying asleep. They cry uncontrollably when they should be completely content.

Unfortunately, since there’s no root cause of colic, there’s no one way to prevent it. However, there are some tips that can help decrease the chance of your baby feeling uncomfortable or gassy.

Here are a few tips for helping to soothe your colicky baby:

  • Stay calm: Keep your baby in a loving, nurturing environment. It’s usually frustrating and tiring for parents. As a parent, it’s OK to take a break.
  • Keep your baby comfortable: Keeping your baby’s room at a good temperature keeps them comfortable – about 70 to 71 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t overload them with too many layers.
  • Soothing noise: White noise sometimes helps to soothe a colicky baby.

“It’s kind of like a comfort zone for your baby. It can’t be proven exactly, but it’s worth a try,” Dr. Garcia said.

  • Helping after they eat: Keep them in an upright position after eating. It will help them to digest their food and reduce gas.

“Almost every baby will have reflux, and that’s normal. Having reflux doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby will have colic,” Dr. Garcia said.

  • Avoid certain foods if breastfeeding: If your baby is sensitive to certain enzymes or proteins in your milk, you may have to eliminate certain foods from your diet while breastfeeding.

Is gripe water safe for newborns?

Grip water is not recommended for babies. Mostly because it’s not regulated, so you may get ingredients in it that aren’t good for babies. Depending on the type, it may even contain alcohol. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recalled multiple gripe water brands for containing harmful substances.

“Some things are sold as a nutritional supplement, but it doesn’t go through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). So, it’s not regulated at all,” Dr. Garcia said.

We don’t know what’s in gripe water. It may cause many different types of side effects on your baby because it isn’t standardized.

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About Author: Katie Faley

Katie Faley is a Writing Coordinator for OSF HealthCare. She graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in English Studies. Before joining OSF HealthCare in 2021, she worked in magazine editing, digital marketing and freelance writing.
Katie is often found listening to ‘60s folk music, deciding on a new skill to learn, losing track of time in a library or spending time with her family and friends.

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Categories: Birth & Maternity, Kids & Family