What is a colicky baby

Colic in infants

People tell me I have a Colicky baby – what does this mean?

Many babies go through a period of having unexplained and regular crying each day. This usually happens between the ages of about two weeks and 16 weeks but has been known to last much longer.  The bouts of crying can be very extended (hours at a time) and occur mostly in the afternoons and evenings. The baby seems to be suffering from abdominal pain. Colic affects around one in three babies.

Symptoms of colic

Colic tends to appear in the first two to four weeks of life and peaks at around six to eight weeks of age. Usually, the baby seems quite happy until the late afternoon or early evening. Symptoms include:

  • Frowning and grimacing
  • Reddening of the face
  • The baby may pull up its legs, suggesting stomach pains
  • Loud and long screaming fits
  • Loud tummy rumblings
  • The baby cannot be consoled
  • The crying lasts for three hours or more
  • The baby passes wind or faeces (poo) around the time the crying stops, which could be coincidental
  • The baby recovers, none the worse for the experience.

The cause of colic

Despite much research into this common condition, the cause of colic remains unknown. There are many theories; however, some babies have colic when no clear factors seem to be the cause. Popular theories include:

  • Maternal diet– certain foods in the mother’s diet may cause symptoms of food allergy or intolerance in her breastfed baby. Some studies have found that particular foods eaten by the mother including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, chocolate, onions and cow’s milk can cause an attack of colic in her breastfed infant.
  • Maternal drug-taking– caffeine and nicotine in breast milk have been linked to infant irritability, since the baby’s body isn’t able to efficiently get rid of these substances.
  • Feeling of fullness– babies may overreact to the unfamiliar sensations of gas or fullness and may interpret these feelings as painful or alarming.
  • General immaturity – babies may take a few months to adjust to life outside the womb.