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Colic > Colic Resources > Colic Information

Colic Information

What causes colic?

10 to 30 percent of all babies get colic. Doctors don't know exactly what colic is or what triggers it. Doctors also do not agree on a treatment for colic. In general, colic refers to an upset baby that appears to have pain associated with gastrointestinal problems.

What are the symptoms of colic?

  • Colic can start in the first two to four weeks after birth and the child suffers from it for up to three months
  • The baby cries loudly, often for two to three hours and can't be comforted. The baby often cries at roughly the same time and usually once or twice a day
  • The baby has bowel pains
  • The baby pulls his feet up under his body and clenches his fists
  • Some babies' stomachs rumble severely and they produce a lot of wind
Colic might not be the only reason for your child's discomfort. If a baby cries loudly all the time and cannot be comforted, a doctor should always be consulted before the parent decides their baby has colic. Other serious diseases or pains can also make the baby cry incessantly. If in doubt, always consult a general practitioner.

Can what I eat make my baby's colic worse?

Some doctors think that if the baby is breast-fed and the mother eats food that makes lots of gas, this may cause colic or make it worse. Food and drinks that produce lots of gas are:

  • Orange juice
  • Onions and cabbage
  • Fruit such as apples and plums
  • Spicy food
  • Products with caffeine, such as chocolate, coffee and tea

How can I calm my baby down?

Experiment to find out what makes a difference to your child's colic. The best thing is to leave two days between each change of diet so that you know exactly what makes your baby feel better or worse. What can you do to help your child? As nobody knows what exactly colic is, there is no one foolproof piece of advice. But there are several useful things that parents could try:

  • Many children with colic calm down if they are rocked either in a cradle, a rocking chair or on a parent's lap
  • Some children feel better if they are carried in a sling on their parent's stomach. The body heat and movement may help
  • Some children feel comforted when wrapped in a blanket or held tightly
  • Gently massaging the baby's tummy has been discovered to help in some cases. Massage in a circle moving your hand from left to right. This is where the large intestine lies in the child's stomach and massaging in this direction will ease the pain by helping the child pass gas
  • Some parents find their baby is comforted by a car ride
  • The baby can sometimes be soothed with music or monotonous sounds. It may help to sing to the child, which has the additional effect of helping to calm the parents
  • Make the child drink milk slowly
  • Make the child burp more often
  • Sit the child up straight while eating if they are old enough
  • If your child drinks powdered milk, try a different product or brand to see if this makes any difference

Is it ok for me to feel so much stress?

Yes! Parents with a colicky baby are often stressed out and rightly so. Their baby is in pain and the natural reaction is to want to help the baby feel better.

When a baby has colic, the life of the family is turned upside down. Parents often find it extremely stressful and upsetting when their baby is crying for hours and cannot be comforted.

For first time parents in particular, it can be a shock and a disappointment to discover that your new-born baby is not the bundle of joy you were expecting. Parents may also feel guilty even though they are not the cause of their child's colic. However, always remember that the child is healthy and will outgrow the colic in a few months. Colic does not harm the development of the child. Children with colic are actually very stimulated!

Parents should look after themselves, too, during the difficult periods. It may be necessary for parents to take turns, so that one can rest while the other is awake. It may also be necessary to call on friends or family as reinforcement. It is better to ask for help than to wear yourself out completely because of the challenge.

It may also help to talk to other parents who have experienced the same thing. You can meet other parents with colicky babies at the online colic support group.

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The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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