Health & Medicine

Colic doesn’t cause babies long-term harm, but it is challenging

Jessica Pennington
Jessica Pennington

For many parents, bringing a newborn home from the hospital can be an exciting but challenging time. It’s expected that all babies will cry, but some parents might experience excessive or uncontrollable crying in their otherwise healthy baby. Understanding colic and potential remedies can help you and your baby find relief.

Colic is a general term that is used for an infant that cries more than three hours a day, three days a week, and for more than three weeks in a healthy baby. It typically begins when babies are two weeks old, and it typically goes away within three to four months.

The cause of colic is unknown, but it is thought to occur for a variety of reasons, including a growing digestive system, food allergies, a still-developing nervous system, oversensitivity or overstimulation by light or noise, hormones that cause stomach pain or a fussy mood, or a baby who is simply moody.

Babies often cry when they are hungry, wet or tired, but a baby with colic might have louder and higher-pitched cries. Additional signs of colic might include predictable crying episodes, usually in the late afternoon or evening; inconsolable crying; crying for no reason; and posture changes such as curled up legs, clenched fists and tense abdominal muscles.

Bowel activity might also increase in a baby with colic, and the baby might pass gas or spit up. However, if your baby has a bluish cast to its lips or skin during a crying episode, or if you notice changes in eating or sleeping behavior, contact your baby’s doctor immediately.

Colic doesn’t cause babies long-term harm, but it’s challenging to go through, leaving many parents looking for solutions. There are no proven treatments for colic, but gas-relief medications and probiotics might help calm your baby. It’s important to talk to your baby’s doctor before giving your baby medication to treat colic.

Parents who fear that they might be losing control should place their baby in a safe place, such as the crib, and go to another room. Never shake a baby. Welcome help from relatives so you can get breaks.

Home remedies might also help ease fussiness. They include holding your baby as upright as possible during feedings, removing potential allergens from your diet if you are breastfeeding, switching formula, changing bottles to one designed to reduce gas, or offering a bottle nipple with smaller holes.

Often, babies can be soothed through the use of pacifiers, swaddling blankets, rocking, being held close, soothing songs, warm baths, and white noise, whether from a white-noise machine, a clothes dryer, a vacuum or a fan.

If you think your baby has colic, it’s important to speak to a physician about the crying, to rule out other potential causes. Once it is determined that the baby does have colic, the physician can help determine the best course of action to help soothe the baby’s symptoms.

Dr. Jessica Pennington is with KentuckyOne Health Primary Care Associates.