There are many causes of abdominal pain in children. Conditions such as constipation or overeating are not serious and usually pass on their own. Other causes, such as appendicitis or bowel obstruction, can need urgent medical attention.…
What is infantile colic?
Infantile colic, or colic for short, is described as excessive crying by an otherwise well baby. It involves periods of unexplained crying and irritability that may be difficult to soothe. Colic is diagnosed when crying occurs for more than three hours per day, for three days per week, for three weeks. It is a very common condition that affects about one in three babies, usually those between 2-16 weeks old.
The cause of colic is largely unknown. It is actually diagnosed by excluding other causes of excessive crying, including digestive system conditions, such as constipation or lactose intolerance, infections, or injuries. It is also a myth that an anxious mother or family can cause colic.
The main risk factor for colic is where the mother is a smoker. There are many other theories on risk factors, but none have been proven. Overall, it is a very common condition that affects both breastfed and bottle-fed babies equally. Colic occurs in both boys and girls and does not depend on the length of time in the uterus (i.e., whether the baby is preterm or full-term). The development of colic is also not determined by when the child was born into the family (i.e., first-born, second-born, etc.).
Signs and symptoms
Colic can be recognized by symptoms including:
- Prolonged crying by an otherwise healthy baby;
- A clear beginning and end to crying;
- Late afternoon or early evening crying;
- Bending of legs or clenching of fists;
- A bulging belly or arched back;
- Louder and higher-pitched crying than normal, and;
- Being difficult or impossible to soothe.
Methods for diagnosis
The diagnosis of colic can be difficult as there is no specific test to identify it. It instead involves your doctor performing a physical examination to rule out other conditions that may cause your baby to cry excessively. It is common to only diagnose colic after it has gone away, which usually occurs around the age of four months. It can help to keep a diary of when your baby cries and discuss it with your doctor. This can include listing when and how long the crying lasts, what the crying sounds like and if there are any specific triggers for the crying.
Types of treatment
There are no specific treatments for colic, but there are techniques to reduce your baby's crying and help you to cope with a baby that cries excessively. Your doctor may suggest that you try to:
- Ensure your baby is not hungry;
- Be gentle, avoid startling your baby and provide physical contact;
- Have quiet feeding times or play soft music;
- Express the watery foremilk before breastfeeding your baby;
- Feed your baby in a sitting-up position;
- Burp your baby regularly;
- Walk around while carrying your baby, and;
- Take your baby for a walk in a pram, or a drive in the car.
The diet of a breastfeeding mother is a debatable issue, but cutting out cow's milk, eggs and spicy foods can work for some mothers. To do this, you can stop consuming one of these foods for a week. If your baby's colic improves, keep this food out of your diet. If your baby's colic does not improve, you can resume this food and avoid a different food for a week.
For bottle-fed babies, trialing a lactose-free formula may help if your doctor suspects lactose intolerance. The use of probiotics, also known as good bacteria, in the treatment of colic is a contentious issue. Interestingly, there is limited evidence that the use of herbal teas can be successful in treating colic in some babies.
Although having a baby with colic can be a challenging time for you and your family, there are no long-term complications for your baby.
As a mother, it is important to get plenty of rest yourself. It can be a very difficult time for you. If you experience symptoms of depression, it is important to seek medical help, as postnatal depression is commonly associated with colic.
Colic is a temporary condition with no lasting effects. It usually settles by four months of age.
There are no specific techniques to prevent infantile colic.
- “Clinical Practice Guidelines : Unsettled or Crying Babies (Colic).” Accessed September 26 2014. http://www.rch.org.au/clinicalguide/guideline_index/Crying_Baby_Infant_Distress/.
- Cohen Gail M. and Laurie W. Albertini. “Colic.” Pediatrics in Review 33 no. 7 (July 1 2012): 332–33. doi:10.1542/pir.33-7-332.
- “Colic.” Better Health Channel. Accessed September 26 2014. http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Colic.
- “Colic (excessive Crying) in Infants.” Accessed September 26 2014. http://www.uptodate.com/contents/colic-excessive-crying-in-infants-beyond-the-basics?source=search_result&search=infantile+colic&selectedTitle=1%7E1.
- Garrison M. M. and D. A. Christakis. “A Systematic Review of Treatments for Infant Colic.” Pediatrics 106 no. 1 Pt 2 (July 2000): 184–90.
- Murtagh John. Murtagh’s Patient Education. Australian ed of 6th revised ed edition. North Ryde N.S.W.: McGraw-Hill Australia 2012.
- Murtagh John MD. John Murtagh’s General Practice. 5th Revised edition edition. North Ryde N.S.W.: McGraw-Hill Medical Publishing 2011.
- Reijneveld Sijmen A. Emily Brugman and Remy A. Hirasing. “Infantile Colic: Maternal Smoking as Potential Risk Factor.” Archives of Disease in Childhood 83 no. 4 (October 1 2000): 302–3. doi:10.1136/adc.83.4.302.
- Roberts Donna M. Michael Ostapchuk and James G. O’Brien. “Infantile Colic.” American Family Physician 70 no. 4 (August 15 2004): 735–40.
- Sung V. H. Hiscock M. L. K. Tang F. K. Mensah M. L. Nation C. Satzke R. G. Heine A. Stock R. G. Barr and M. Wake. “Treating Infant Colic with the Probiotic Lactobacillus Reuteri: Double Blind Placebo Controlled Randomised Trial.” BMJ 348 no. apr01 2 (April 1 2014): g2107–g2107. doi:10.1136/bmj.g2107.
FAQ Frequently asked questions
What is infantile colic?
Infantile colic is described as excessive crying by an otherwise well baby. Colic involves periods of crying and irritability that are unexplained and at which time the baby is difficult to soothe. Colic is diagnosed when crying occurs for more than three hours per …
What are the symptoms of infantile colic?
Infantile colic can be recognized by symptoms including: prolonged crying when the baby is otherwise healthy; a clear beginning and end to the crying; crying in the late afternoon or early evening; bending of legs or clenching of fists; a bulging …
Who gets infantile colic?
Infantile colic is a common condition affecting about in every three babies. Both boys and girls can develop colic. Bottle-fed and breastfed babies both have colic.
How is infantile colic diagnosed?
Your doctor will diagnose infantile colic after they have conducted a physical examination of your baby and carried out any other tests required to rule out other causes of excessive crying.
How is infantile colic treated?
There are no specific treatments for colic, but there are management techniques to reduce your infant's crying and help parents cope. Your doctor may suggest that you try to ensure that your baby is not hungry, be gentle and avoid startling your baby, …
Can infantile colic be cured?
There is no cure for colic. It will generally clear on its own after your baby reaches about four months of age.
How common is infantile colic?
It is a very common condition that affects about one in three babies and usually affects babies that are 2-16 weeks old.