What is Colic? Colicky Baby Symptoms & Treatments

What is Colic? Colicky Baby Symptoms & Treatments

Got a colicky baby on your hands? We’re with you, mama. Here’s all you need to know about colic symptoms, treatments, and how to prevent it.
Babies cry.

That’s how they express hunger, pain, distress, and even excitement.

However, if they’re crying a lot, at regular times every day, and for no apparent reason, you might have something different on your hands.

Mama, your baby might have colic.

It can be stressful, it can be tough, and it can be a little heartbreaking.

But it’ll pass!

Here’s what you need to know about looking after a colicky baby.

In this article: 📝

  • What is colic?
  • How do you know if your baby has colic?
  • What causes colic in a baby?
  • How do you treat colic in babies?
  • How can you prevent colic?

What is colic?

“Colicky” is the word we use to describe a colic baby.

Simply put, colic is a condition characterized by intense, frequent crying, discomfort, and fussiness in babies.

Colic can be difficult and frustrating for parents because having a colicky baby can often be tough to soothe.

Why colic happens is still not quite clear (more on that later).

But a colicky baby is not necessarily an unhealthy baby.

That’s important.

Sometimes, colic just happens.

Usually, colic tends to peak at around 6 weeks of age and will likely disappear soon after 3 or 4 months.

How many hours does colic last?

Colic usually lasts for 3 or more hours for at least 3 days a week for at least 3 weeks ‒ the “rule of three”.

But unfortunately, 3 hours at a time is the lower end of the scale for colic.

It’s not unusual for a colicky baby to cry for 4, 5, or 6 hours at a time.

If this sounds all too familiar, we’re with you, mama.

How do you know if your baby has colic?

Colic is usually characterized by frequent and intense bouts of crying.

However, it’s not just any old crying.

A colicky baby will usually show some of the following colic symptoms:

  • Crying that seems like screaming or an expression of pain.
  • Crying with no apparent cause.
  • Regular crying – often at roughly the same time every day (usually in the evening).
  • More high-pitched and louder crying.
  • Tension of the body: clenched fists, stiff arms, arched back.
  • A red face.
  • Little response to soothing.
  • Fussiness even after crying.

If you feel like your little one is showing some of these colic symptoms, book an appointment with a doctor.

How is colic diagnosed?

If baby is crying unusually often or without reason, try to keep a log of when they cry and for how long, along with the rest of their schedule, then take them to your doctor.

There are a few tell-tale colic symptoms, but the most obvious is crying.

Taking baby to your healthcare provider will rule out any other reasons for their crying, then they can diagnose them with colic and give you some useful tips for colic treatments.

Should I take my baby to the doctor for colic?

Yes, it’s a good idea to take baby to their pediatrician if you think they have colic, to make sure there’s no other reason for the persistent crying.

They’ll be able to tell you if your baby has colic or something different entirely.

How do I know if my baby has gas or colic?

Sometimes a colicky baby will feel better after passing gas or pooping.

So what’s the difference between colic and gas? Well, to be honest, it can be difficult to tell.

Usually, if baby is gassy, their crying will stop after passing gas, but if they have colic, they may still be fussy or continue crying.

If you’re unsure, speak with your doctor.

Do colic babies poop a lot?

Sometimes it’s actually the opposite ‒ some babies will feel more comfortable after pooping, but colic can make babies constipated.

Which is probably the last thing you want to hear right now!

How can you tell the difference between colic and reflux?

So what’s the difference between colic vs reflux?

Well, a baby with reflux may spit up more often than a colicky baby.

If you think baby might have reflux, try keeping them upright after feeding for about 20 minutes, as this can help them to digest their milk more smoothly.

What does a colicky baby act like?

Well, a colicky baby will act like a very fussy baby ‒ crying without reason and looking uncomfortable or pained.

Poor baby… and poor you!

Do colicky babies act hungry?

Yes, sometimes, a colicky baby can act like they’re hungry.

But this isn’t because they’re actually hungry ‒ it’s more because the action of sucking can be soothing for a colicky baby.

So it can help to give a colic baby something safe to suck on instead, like a pacifier.

Is colic worse at night?

For some babies with colic, yes, it can be worse at night or in the late afternoon.

But for others, morning and daytime are the worst for colic.

But usually, a baby with colic will cry at the same time of day ‒ if they’re a nighttime colic baby, they’ll get more symptoms at night, and if they’re a daytime colic baby, expect tears during the day.

What causes colic in a baby?

Doctors are still not sure about the precise cause of colic in babies.

But we know that it’s probably something to do with abdominal pain or stress.

So far, some possible causes of colic that have been investigated include:

  • An immature digestive system. Baby’s all brand new. Sometimes this means that not everything works as well as it will later in life. A digestive system that isn’t fully developed might be less able to digest food. And the extra gas can be a little uncomfortable.
  • Allergies or sensitivities. Some docs think baby colic can be the result of sensitivity or allergies to dairy or other foods in the mama’s diet. This can set off a sensitive baby tummy.
  • Tobacco. Some studies have suggested that mamas who smoke are more likely to have a colicky baby.
  • Baby migraine or childhood stress? Different interpretations have suggested that colic has less to do with digestion than stress, headaches, or oversensitivity to stimulation.

Can breastfed babies get colic?

Yes, breastfed or formula-fed babies can get colic ‒ it tends to affect around 20% of all babies.

Can mother’s diet cause colic?

Some experts suggest that a mother’s diet can impact whether baby has colic, but a recent study in 2018 showed that dietary changes didn’t actually make a difference to babies getting colic.

However, there are some foods you can eat that may help baby’s digestive system, which may help them get over colic…

What foods should I avoid while breastfeeding a colicky baby?

The UK NHS says that “there is no evidence that changing your diet will help” if you have a colicky baby, but they do list some foods to avoid during breastfeeding to prevent colic, according to some people’s reports.

So here are the NHS’s potential foods that cause colic in babies:

  • Spicy foods
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol

Does overfeeding cause colic?

No, overfeeding baby will not cause colic, but it may cause more frequent spitting up, gas, and diarrhea, which can make the colic symptoms that bit worse.

So it’s not a good idea to overfeed an already colicky baby.

How do you treat colic in babies?

What can you do for a colicky baby?

The conventional wisdom is that there’s not much apart from letting it pass.

However, if the little angel is in the middle of a screaming fit, some things can help make them feel better (even if the colic doesn’t go away entirely).

  • Create a calm environment. If colic’s a matter of overstimulation, keeping things monotonous may help ease the tears. A quiet, calm room may help. On the other hand, something loud like a vacuum or a white noise machine can also calm the baby by blocking out other noises.
  • Try burping your baby. Passing gas (from either end) can help a colicky baby.
  • Watch what they eat (and you, too). You can switch up their baby formula if you suspect that they might be responding badly. Or, if you’re breastfeeding, keep your diet free from possible allergens, cutting out spicy foods, alcohol, and caffeine.
  • Rock or walk them. Distraction or movement can help. The close contact and motion can relax them.
  • If nothing works, talk to your doctor. They can suggest something that is right for you.

Does gripe water help with colic?

No, there’s no evidence to suggest that gripe water helps colicky babies, although it’s very common for mamas to give colicky babies gripe water.

In fact, giving a colicky baby gripe water may cause vomiting and constipation, which can make their colic symptoms worse.

Can I give my newborn colic drops?

Yes, you can give your newborn colic drops ‒ although they may not actually do anything to help their colic.

While the American Academy of Pediatrics says that you can use colic drops, they stress that there’s “no evidence” that they actually work.

Our advice? Speak to your doctor for a more effective colic treatment.

Colic Calm reviews

Colic Calm is a brand of gripe water, aimed at colicky babies.

While some of our mamas on Peanut swear by Colic Calm, saying that it’s a near-magic potion that helps soothe their colicky baby, others say it doesn’t do anything.

If you want to try Colic Calm, it’s best to have a chat with your doctor about it first.

Old home remedies for colic

Babies have had colic for decades. Maybe even centuries.

So it’s only natural for us to have some old home remedies for colic ‒ let’s dive in!

Boiled onion water for colic

While boiled onion water for colic has become a bit of a cult remedy for colic, it’s best to leave this one to the internet.

There’s nothing to suggest that boiled onion water for colic will help ease baby’s symptoms, and it’s generally not a good idea to give baby anything other than breast milk or formula to drink until they’re about 12 months old.

Colic baby massage

Some mamas on Peanut say that doing a colic baby massage helped soothe and calm their little ones.

Not sure where to start with a colic baby massage? Check out this video guide:

Is it OK to let a colicky baby cry?

Sometimes, you have no choice but to let a colicky baby cry.

It’s worth trying a few of our colic baby soothing techniques below, but sadly, sometimes, there’s nothing you can do.

Try to soothe them first, to see if anything works, but if it doesn’t, you can let baby cry for a little while.

How do you soothe a colicky baby?

The thing about colic is that it is not just a trial for the baby.

It can be tough on mamas, too. Seriously.

Babies with colic tend to be associated with mamas with postpartum depression.

So, to ensure that your mental health doesn’t suffer, it’s worth finding some ways to manage this tricky part of babyhood.

Here are some things that can help.

  • Take a break. Don’t feel bad if you need to put your crying colic baby down in their crib for 5 or 10 minutes and leave the room. A small break can give you the energy to face the music once more.
  • Call in some support. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Maybe you have a friend or family member who can take the baby for an hour?
  • Talk about it. Colicky babies can be tough. Reach out to the mamas of Peanut for support, advice, or a good old rant.
  • Contact a professional. There is help out there. A session with a therapist (even over the phone or online) can help you deal with the stress.

How do you put a colicky baby to sleep?

We wish there was a simple fix on how to make colic baby sleep, but every baby is different, and what may have worked before might not work with a colicky baby.

Try swaddling them nice and tight, holding and rocking them to sleep, and using calming noises, like singing a lullaby or using white noise.

If baby has colic, now’s not the time to try any sleep training techniques!

Does swaddling help colic?

Sometimes, swaddling can be great for helping a colicky baby ‒ feeling secure and snug can help baby feel less anxious, which can cause colic symptoms to flare up.

How can you prevent colic?

Okay, before we get into ways to ‘prevent’ colic, we need to say this: 1 in 5 babies get colic.

Sometimes, it’s a luck-of-the-draw. Just one of those mamahood experiences to add to the list.

Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do.

However, there are some “anti-colic bottles” that may help avoid a colicky baby.

Here are the best anti-colic bottles according to our veteran mamas of Peanut:

  • Philips AVENT Anti-Colic Bottles: Easy to clean, with a hole to help discourage baby from gulping their milk too quickly and causing gas, which can make colic symptoms more uncomfortable. Buy it here.
  • Dr. Brown’s Options+ Anti-Colic Bottles: Leak-proof and BPA-free, this anti-colic bottle gift set comes with everything you need to help avoid having a colicky baby. Buy it here.
  • Tommee Tippee Advanced Anti-Colic Bottle: These cult anti-colic bottles minimize the amount of air baby gulps while feeding, which means they won’t have to burp or spit up as often, along with reducing colic symptoms. Buy it here.

If you have a colic baby, we feel for you, mama, we really do.

It will pass. But remember, you’re doing a great job!

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Newborn Hiccups: Why They Happen & How to Stop Them
How To Wash Cloth Diapers
All You Need to Know About Strep Throat in Babies
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How to Clean a Baby Bottle

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