Infant Colic Explained
What is infant Colic?
Infant colic is described as excessive crying of unknown cause in an otherwise healthy baby.
While crying and fussing is common in infants, especially in the first few months of life, regular bouts of inconsolable crying that occur mostly in the evenings is usually a sign of colic. Colic can be particularly frustrating for parents, as the crying happens for no apparent reason and it can be near impossible to calm the baby during one of these episodes.
Infant colic can start from as early as a few days old and is most common in babies from two to 16 weeks of age.
Around one in four babies will experience colic.
How do I know if my baby has colic?
Colic most often appears in the first two to four weeks of life and peaks around six to eight weeks of age. Colic appears in babies who are healthy, eating and growing well and are their usual happy selves during the day until the late afternoon or early evening when the crying spells start.
There are some common signs to help you identify if your baby might have colic. Typically, babies with colic will display some or all of the following:
- Long, loud and high-pitched bouts of screaming/crying
- Crying lasts for over three hours, three or more days per week at around the same time each day
- Baby cannot be consoled
- Reddening of the face
- Baby may pull its legs and arms in towards its belly, have clenched fists and an arched back
- Frowning and grimacing
- Loud tummy rumblings/bloating.
Sometimes these symptoms can subside after the baby passes wind or has bowel movements.
If you’re not sure if your baby has colic, take our online colic quiz here.
What causes colic?
Despite significant research, the cause of infant colic remains unknown. There are a number of theories on what may be the cause of colic in infants, however some babies will experience colic despite no clear signs of the cause.
How to treat colic
There is no miracle cure for colic in infants, but there are a number of things you can try to help settle your baby and ease the discomfort your baby might be experiencing. Keep in mind that babies with colic are not unwell or in pain, and there is no ‘best’ way to go about soothing your baby; it’s important to try a range of methods to see what works best for you:
- Check that your baby doesn’t need a feed or nappy change or is not uncomfortable in some other way (ie. too hot or too cold, hair or threads wrapped around fingers or toes etc)
- Swaddling and holding your baby close to you can be very soothing for babies
- Gentle rocking and patting
- Try giving a dummy; sucking motions are soothing for babies
- Dim the lights to create a relaxing atmosphere
- If your baby is bottle-fed, try some different bottle types to see if they help your baby swallow less air
- Try using Infants’ Friend Oral Liquid – a formula developed with ingredients traditionally used in western herbal medicine to relieve colic (wind/gas pains), restless sleep and symptoms of indigestion. Find out more here.
Colic episodes can be quite distressing for parents, so it’s important to try to remain calm. If you feel yourself getting stressed, angry or anxious during a crying spell, put your baby down safely in the cot and step out of the room for a few minutes to calm yourself.
If you are concerned that it might not be colic, you should always seek advice from a health professional to rule out any other causes of your baby’s discomfort.
Things to remember
- Infant colic is frequent and intense crying of unknown cause, for more than three hours at a time
- Colic appears in healthy babies and is not generally a cause for concern for your baby’s health
- There is no known cause for colic in infants, but common theories include immaturity of the digestive system, wind or gas.