8 Surprising Facts About Baby Colic

  • Crying baby
    When Crying Might Be Colic
    If your baby cries more than 3 hours per day at least 3 days a week, she might have colic.

    All babies cry, but babies who have colic typically cry more frequently. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, colic often begins around 3 weeks of age and peaks between 4 to 6 weeks. By 3 to 4 months of age, colic symptoms usually disappear. However, colic can last as long as a year.

    Learn more about baby colic causes and treatments, including tips and techniques you can use to survive long hours of crying.
  • Mother holding crying baby
    1. No one knows what causes colic.
    Healthcare providers and parents have a lot of theories about what causes colic, but no one really understands what’s going on in the bodies of colicky babies. Factors that may contribute to the development of colic include hunger or overfeeding, an immature digestive system, acid reflux (GERD), gas pain, imbalance of gut bacteria, food allergies or intolerances, and stress and anxiety.

    Colic might even be an early form of childhood migraine. One study of 154 mother/baby pairs found that 29% of infants of moms with migraines had colic, compared to just 11% of infants whose mothers didn’t have a history of migraine.
  • Mother kissing her sleeping newborn baby
    2. Colic doesn’t affect babies’ growth.
    Because babies who have colic often look (and act) like they have tummy pain, many parents assume that there’s something wrong with their baby’s digestive system. But even though colicky babies appear uncomfortable and may exhibit clenched fists, pulled up legs and a tense abdomen, most are physically healthy and growing well. In fact, normal growth and development is typical for babies with colic.
  • Father holding crying colicky baby
    3. Colic is usually worse in the evenings.
    For some unknown reason, colic symptoms usually occur at the same time every day and usually, in the evening. Unfortunately, these evening cryfests are tough on the whole family. Parents who work during the day may find it particularly difficult to develop a bond with a baby who seems to cry no matter what. And if there are older children in the home, a colicky baby may make it difficult for parents to give other children the attention they desire.
  • Mother with baby at pediatrician
    4. It’s a good idea to see a doctor if you think your baby has colic.
    In most cases, there’s nothing physically wrong with a baby who has colic. However, because a variety of medical conditions can cause similar symptoms, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with your child’s healthcare provider if you notice colic symptoms. Your provider will want to check your baby’s growth and development and conduct a physical exam to rule out a medical problem, such as a hernia or GERD. If your baby has GERD, your doctor may recommend medication, such as Omeprazole (Prilosec OTC, Zegerid OTC, OmePPi OTC), to help treat colic while the digestive system matures.
  • Mother giving baby colic drops
    5. Baby colic drops aren’t very effective.
    You can buy simethicone gas drops over the counter; these products are often marketed as “colic drops.” The American Academy of Pediatrics says that simethicone drops are safe for babies but notes that scientific studies have shown that the drops are not very effective.

    You may have better luck with home remedies. Try swaddling and holding your baby tight. Or, go for a walk or car ride. You can also try placing a warm towel on your baby’s tummy.
  • Mother breast feeding baby son in armchair
    6. Some babies with colic seem sensitive to certain foods.
    According to the National Library of Medicine, foods that are passed through breast milk may trigger colic in nursing infants. So, if you’re breastfeeding, you might want to try eliminating certain foods from your diet, one at a time, to see if your baby’s symptoms improve. Some mothers note improvement after they eliminate caffeine, dairy, soy or egg.

    If you’re formula feeding, ask your doctor about switching to another formula.
  • Mother and baby at home
    7. International researchers are studying probiotics as a colic treatment.
    Healthcare providers and researchers want to understand colic, clinical studies are ongoing. Because researchers suspect that an imbalance of gut bacteria may be responsible for colic, at least in some infants, one treatment they’re testing is probiotic supplementation.

    Probiotics are “good” bacteria that help maintain the health of the digestive system. At least one study shows that colicky babies who received probiotic treatment experienced decreased crying.
  • Mother looking stressed with young infant
    8. Colic increases the risk of postpartum depression.
    Dealing with a crying baby is very stressful! And because babies with colic seem almost inconsolable at times, it’s easy for parents to feel incompetent, or to blame themselves for their baby’s distress. It’s completely and totally normal to feel exhausted and overwhelmed by your baby’s crying. However, if you begin to have feelings of hopelessness or rage, or thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, seek help immediately.
8 Surprising Facts About Baby Colic

About The Author

Jennifer L.W. Fink, RN, BSN is a Registered Nurse-turned-writer. She’s also the creator of BuildingBoys.net and co-creator/co-host of the podcast On Boys: Real Talk about Parenting, Teaching & Reaching Tomorrow’s Men.
  1. Colic. American Academy of Family Physicians. https://familydoctor.org/condition/colic/?adfree=true
  2. Colic and Crying – Self-Care. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000753.htm
  3. Infant Colic and Migraine: Is There a Connection? Neurology Now. https://n.neurology.org/content/neurology/79/13/e112.full.pdf
  4. Colic. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/colic/symptoms-causes/syc-20371074?p=1
  5. Colic. Nemours Foundation. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/colic.html
  6. Breaking Up Gas. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/diapers-clothing/Pages/Breaking-Up-Gas.aspx
  7. Indrio, F., Di Mauro, A., Riezzo, G., Civardi, E., Intini, C., & Corvaglia, L. et al. (2014). Prophylactic Use of a Probiotic in the Prevention of Colic, Regurgitation, and Functional Constipation. JAMA Pediatrics, 168(3), 228. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4367. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/1812293
  8. Clinical Trials. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://clinicaltrials.gov/search/open/condition=%22Infantile+Colic%22
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 May 1
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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