11948 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Colic

    Definition

    Colic is excessive crying in a baby with no obvious cause. During these episodes it is very hard to console the baby. This intense crying occurs regularly over at least a few weeks. It is more common during the night.
    Colic can start as early as two weeks. It is the worst at 6 weeks. Fortunately, colic often disappears by age 5 months.

    Causes

    The exact cause of colic is not known.
    Colic-like crying can be caused by certain common problems. Your doctor will look for these issues . A treatment plan will be done based on your baby's condition. If no cause is confirmed your doctor will recommend treatment for colic.

    Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your baby's risk for colic include:
    • Mother smoking during pregnancy
    • Age: 2 weeks to 4 months old
    • Sensitive temperament

    Symptoms

    These symptoms may be caused by colic or other discomforts. Some may not require medical care. Talk to your doctor if your baby is having symptoms such as:
    • Loud crying that may last for several hours
    • Inability to be consoled
    • Turning red from crying
    • Pulling arms and legs toward body and then stretching limbs out
    • Passing gas or burping due to swallowing air while crying

    Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your baby's medical history and symptoms. A physical exam will be done. Your baby's weight or weight change will also be checked. Let your doctor know how your baby acts during colic, how long colic lasts and when it occurs.
    The doctor will consider other conditions that may be causing inconsolable crying, such as:
    • Problems in their stomachs or intestines such as an immature digestive system or painful muscle contractions
    • Allergic reactions or hypersensitivity to certain formulas, lactose intolerance, or gas
    • Feeding problems
    • Problems with sleep cycles or processing things in environment
    • Constipation
    • Illness such as an ear infection
    • Hernia
    • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
    To help determine if your baby has colic or another condition, your doctor may ask:
    • Is your baby eating well?
    • Is your baby producing 5 to 8 very wet diapers each day?
    • Is your baby producing stool normally?
    • Is your baby having colic-free periods?

    Treatment

    Unfortunately, there is no one specific treatment that cures colic. There are steps you can take to help reduce the discomfort your baby feels.

    Support for Baby

    Make changes during feeding time:
    • If breastfed, consider making changes to the mother's diet. This may include avoiding cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, and fish.
    • If bottlefed, consider using a whey hydrolysate formula. Make sure to warm the formula before giving it to your baby.
    • Bottle feedings may need to be slowed down. Try using a nipple with a smaller hole.
    • Burp your baby well after feeding.
    • Feed your baby in a more upright position. This position will keep gas in your baby's stomach. Gas in the stomach is more easily burped up.
    Talk to the doctor about alternative treatments. Certain supplements that may be helpful include: Note: To keep your baby safe, check with the doctor before giving any herbs or supplements to your baby.
    Other strategies that may help include:
    • Take your baby for a walk or for a ride in the car. Try a baby safe swing.
    • Position your baby on the tummy, across your lap. Gently rub her back.
    • Consider learning baby massage.
    • Swaddle your baby in a soft blanket.
    • Rock your baby in a rocking chair or in your arms. Hold your baby close and bounce or walk gently.
    • Bathe your baby in warm water.
    • Let your baby use a pacifier.
    • Make sure baby isn't too warm or cold.
    • Try skin to skin contact.

    Support for Parents

    It is upsetting to see your baby crying and not being able to console him. The high-pitched crying of a colicky baby is also difficult for anyone to listen to. Try to keep in mind that most babies with colic are healthy. Most will outgrow colic by 3-4 months of age. Know that it is not your fault that the baby does not stop crying. To help you get through this period consider:
    • Taking some time to distract yourself from intensity of the crying. Place your baby in a safe crib and go to a nearby room to listen to television or music.
    • Taking a break. Ask your family members, friends, or a sitter to help care for your baby.
    If you ever feel angry or violent towards the baby, put your baby in a safe place and step out of the room. Call someone for help right away, like your doctor. There are many services available to help you deal with your emotions. The doctor can refer you to these services.

    Prevention

    There are no guidelines for preventing colic because the causes are not well understood.

    RESOURCES

    American Academy of Pediatrics http://www.healthychildren.org/

    KidsHealth http://www.kidshealth.org/

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    About Kids Health http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/

    References

    Colic. Healthy Children.org, American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/english/ages-stages/baby/crying-colic/pages/colic.aspx?nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3a+No+local+token . Updated May 1, 2012. Accessed July 19, 2012.

    Colic. FamilyDoctor.org. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/colic/treatment.html . Accessed July 19, 2012.

    Infantile colic. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ . Updated June 18, 2012. Accessed July 19, 2012.

    Parent teaching: coping with excessive infant crying/infantile colic. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/pointOfCare/nrc-about . Published 2011. Accessed July 19, 2012.

    Quick lesson about colic, infantile. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/pointOfCare/nrc-about . Updated October 28, 2011. Accessed July 19, 2012.

    5/14/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Aviner S, Berkovitch M, Dalkian H, Braunstein R, Lomnicky Y, Schlesinger M. Use of a homeopathic preparation for "infantile colic" and an apparent life-threatening event. Pediatrics. 2010;125(2):e318-23.

    8/23/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Savino F, Cordisco L, Tarasco V, et al. Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17 938 in infantile colic: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Pediatrics. 2010 Aug 16. [Epub ahead of print]

    Revision Information

    • Reviewer: Michael Woods
    • Review Date: 09/2012
    • Update Date: 00/91/2012
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