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Many sleep-deprived parents will say their baby has colic, but just because your baby is fussy each night does not automatically mean colic. True colic is generally defined as inconsolable crying lasting several to many hours occurring several times a week. It can occur day or night. It typically starts around the third week of life and usually resolves itself by three months of age.

Colic strikes up to roughly 1 in 4 infants. Aside from crying that lasts for hours, signs your baby has colic include a slightly hardened belly with gas, your baby pulling up or rigidly stretching out legs, and unusually intense crying. A colic baby’s cry may sound more distressed than normal crying. This frequently makes parents even more upset because their baby genuinely sounds like he or she is in pain.

Colic has been reported in babies for hundreds of years, but we still do not know its definitive cause. Theories behind colic include lactose intolerance, allergies, overstimulation, and even nervous parents. Fortunately, the latter appears to be an old wives’ tale, but colicky babies do appear to have gas pains, possibly caused by intolerances to lactose or formula. Unfortunately, excessive crying increases gas pain as the baby gulps in air.

Although colic can be extremely frustrating, most of the time it resolves on its own. Some suggestions for helping colicky babies include swaddling, extra holding, reducing stimulation, stomach massage and rubbing, and extra burping. If you find something that works, use it. In a few weeks’ time, this difficult period should be over. In the meantime, parents of colicky babies should try to establish extra support for themselves, such as asking a family member or friend to take over for a little bit each day so stressed-out parents can take a nap and catch up on lost sleep.

While the majority of cases of colic don’t signal any underlying medical issues, there are few symptoms that should trigger a call to your pediatrician: mucus or blood in your baby’s stool; excessive spitting up (possible reflux problems); a refusal to eat; a baby not gaining weight. While colic is not abnormal, it is difficult. Don’t be afraid to make an appointment to discuss this issue with your pediatrician.

Takeaways

  • Colic can affect roughly 1 in 4 infants.
  • Colic usually resolves itself by 3 months old.
  • There is no definitive cause of colic, though some theories include allergies and lactose intolerance.

References

  1. Clifford TJ, Campbell MK, Speechley KN, Gorodzinsky F. Infant colic: empirical evidence of the absence of an association with source of early infant nutrition.  Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2002 Nov;156(11):1123-8.

Comments

  1. I’m still constantly amazed that the general population still hasn’t got the message that if your baby has colic, then take them to see a competent chiropractor and after one or two simple gentle cervical adjustments the colic will be gone forever. No drugs, no side effects, no problem.
    When the child’s neck is significantly out of alignment, a common finding with a big head sitting on top of a tiny atlas vertebra, [like bowling ball sitting on top of a small washer,] there is direct pressure on the brain stem, or medulla, which runs through the atlas. The interference that results, can cause a myriad of physiological symptoms, and colic is a rather common one that is easily corrected…..without drugs!
    SIDS is just another of a vast number of problems which an arise from the same cause……..interference with the normal flow of nerve impulses at the brain stem level.
    Don’t bother to ask your MD, just use your common sense. Your MD has been hoodwinked into believing that only drugs can heal. What an insult to the miraculous human body.
    My name is Dr Bob Richmond and I’ve been a chiropractor for over 40 yrs, and I’ve seen hundreds of cases respond perfectly.
    Let’s see if this site is open minded and honest enough to post this comment.

    Reply
    1. Dr. Richmond, thank you for your comment! We are always open to feedback and discussion with the aim to help parents make educated decisions for their families.

      Reply
    2. There has been limited evidence re: the benefits and safety of chiropractic care in children, however the use continues to increase for a variety of ailments, including colic. The studies done have been inconclusive at best, designed in such a way that they are not controlled clinical trials, but instead relying on anecdotal evidence or parental reports. Other studies have only a small number of patients or other design flaws, meaning the evidence is not reliable. The few studies that have been done according to rigorous scientific criteria have not found any benefit to chiropractic manipulation over the placebo group. There are also issues of safety with chiropractic manipulations in the pediatric population. I recently came across a publication referencing a 3 week old who was evaluated for rib fractures following a chiropractic manipulation for colic. Safety is certainly something to think about before treating common pediatric conditions with manipulation.

      Reply
  2. The first paragraph of this article is a perfect description of my daughter after we brought her home from the hospital. I am thankful that she was my second child because I did know that there was light at the end of the tunnel and it would eventually get better. It’s almost as if I had a new baby once she hit the three month mark. So the good thing about colic is that it doesn’t last forever.

    Reply
  3. With colic, the key element is time. Eventually the symptoms will go away. However, there are some tricks that can help. Dr. Harvey Karp, in his book “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” talks about using the “5 S’s” to help calm a fussy baby. The “5 S’s” include: swaddling (wrapping tightly), side-lying/stomach position (secure a baby should never sleep in this position), swinging (or rocking; Dr. Karp says to “jiggle” – no shaking), shushing (loud enough to be heard over the crying, i.e. vacuum, white noise machine, hair dryer), and sucking (on a pacifier, breast, bottle, finger).
    We used these techniques on our baby with some success. Sometimes one of the S’s worked, at other times it took 2 or 3, and sometimes it took all 5! Dr. Karp’s video illustrations of his techniques are excellent. You can purchase his DVD or book from his website (http://www.happiestbaby.com)

    It’s important as a parent not to get frustrated. If you find yourself stressed out about the incessant crying, lay the baby down in her crib and go into another room for a few minutes to let off some steam. Come back and try again. Recruit a family member or friend to watch the baby. The crying can get overwhelming and you need a break!

    For more details on the “5 S’s”, check out this article: http://mamasoncall.com/2010/08/a-cure-for-colic-the-5-ss/

    Reply

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