What is colic? — Colic is the term doctors use when babies cry much more than usual for no obvious reason during their first 3 months.
It is normal for babies to cry up to 2 hours a day. Babies with colic usually cry more than 3 hours a day, on more than 3 days a week. Bouts of colic usually start suddenly and happen in the evening.
Colic usually goes away on its own when a baby is 3 or 4 months old. But sometimes it lasts a few months longer.
What else besides colic can make a baby cry more than usual? — Babies can cry more than usual when they are hurt, sick, hungry, too hot or cold, or too tired. Babies can also cry more than usual if they are allergic to their formula or to foods in their mother's breast milk. (The food that a woman eats is passed to her baby through her breast milk.)
How is colic different from normal crying? — Colic is different because:
The crying in colic is louder and more high-pitched – Babies often sound as if they are screaming or in pain.
Parents are often not able to comfort or soothe their baby during a bout of colic.
A baby can have a hard belly, stiff arms, or arched back during a bout of colic.
Is there a test for colic? — No. There is no test. But your doctor or nurse should be able to tell if your baby has it by talking with you and doing an exam on your baby.
What can I do to stop my baby's crying? — Doctors and nurses recommend trying different things to help stop your baby's crying (table 1). For example, you can:
Use a bottle that keeps your baby from swallowing too much air
Have your baby sit up during feedings
Carry your baby more in your arms, a sling, or a front carrier
Take your baby for a ride in the car
Give your baby a warm bath
Put your baby in a baby swing
Swaddle your baby (figure 1)
Put your baby near a clothes dryer or other source of background noise
Massage your baby's belly
Change your baby's formula or avoid eating certain foods if you breastfeed – Before trying these, be sure to talk with your doctor or nurse.
When should I call my doctor or nurse? — Call your doctor or nurse as soon as possible during the day or night if:
Your baby is younger than 3 months old and has a fever – To see if your baby has a fever, take their temperature. The most accurate way to take a baby's temperature is to take a rectal temperature (figure 2). If your baby's rectal temperature is 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, then they have a fever.
Your baby cries for longer than 2 hours without stopping
Your baby refuses to eat or drink, is vomiting, or has bloody bowel movements
Your baby is not responding to you or acting normally
You are afraid that you might have hurt your baby – Shaking, hitting, or hurting a baby can cause serious damage. If you think you might have hurt your baby, even without meaning to, call for help.
Call your doctor or nurse during regular office hours if:
You are worried about your baby's crying or don't know how to handle it
Your baby spits up a lot after feedings, has diarrhea, or has trouble having bowel movements – These symptoms could mean that your baby is allergic to the formula or to certain foods.
Your baby is older than 4 months and still having colic
Your baby is not gaining weight normally
What if I am overwhelmed? — Having a baby with colic can be exhausting, stressful, and frustrating. Try to remember that your baby's colic is not your fault, and that colic almost always goes away within a few months.
If possible, take turns with your partner so you both get breaks from your baby's crying. It's also OK to put your baby in a crib, bassinet, or other safe place for a few minutes while you take a break. Try to call a friend or relative if you need help. In the United States, there is also a parent help line (1-800-422-4453) that you can call any time.
If you need a break, be sure to take one so that you don't hurt your baby. Shaking, hitting, or hurting a baby can cause serious brain problems, or even death.
Talk to your doctor or nurse if you are having a very hard time or need more support. In some cases, it can help to talk with a counselor who is trained on ways to handle colic.
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 30, 2020.
Topic 15897 Version 5.0
Release: 28.2.2 - C28.105
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