What is colic? — Colic is the term doctors use when babies cry much more than usual for no obvious reason during their first 3 months.
It is normal for babies to cry up to 2 hours a day. Babies with colic usually cry more than 3 hours a day, on more than 3 days a week. Bouts of colic usually start suddenly and happen in the evening.
Colic usually goes away on its own when a baby is 3 or 4 months old. But sometimes it lasts a few months longer.
What else besides colic can make a baby cry more than usual? — Babies can cry more than usual when they are hurt, sick, hungry, too hot or cold, or too tired. Babies can also cry more than usual if they are allergic to their formula or to foods in their mother’s breast milk. (The food that a woman eats is passed to her baby through her breast milk.)
How is colic different from normal crying? — Colic is different because:
●The crying in colic is louder and more high-pitched – Babies often sound as if they are screaming or in pain.
●Parents are often not able to comfort or soothe their baby during a bout of colic.
●A baby can have a hard belly, stiff arms, or arched back during a bout of colic (table 1).
Is there a test for colic? — No. There is no test. But your doctor or nurse should be able to tell if your baby has it by talking with you and doing an exam on your baby.
What can I do to stop my baby’s crying? — Doctors and nurses recommend trying different things to help stop your baby’s crying (table 2). For example, you can:
●Use a bottle that keeps your baby from swallowing too much air
●Have your baby sit up during feedings
●Carry your baby more in your arms, a sling, or a front carrier
●Go for a car ride
●Give your baby a warm bath
●Put your baby in a baby swing
●Swaddle your baby (figure 1)
●Put your baby near a clothes dryer or other source of background noise
●Massage your baby’s belly
●Change your baby’s formula or avoid eating certain foods if you breastfeed – Before trying these, be sure to talk with your doctor or nurse.
When should I call my doctor or nurse? — Call your doctor or nurse as soon as possible during the day or night if:
●Your baby is younger than 3 months old and has a fever – To see if your baby has a fever, take his or her temperature. The most accurate way to take a baby’s temperature is to take a rectal temperature (figure 2). If your baby’s rectal temperature is 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, then he or she has a fever.
●Your baby cries for longer than 2 hours without stopping
●You are afraid that you hurt your baby or shook your baby too hard
●Your baby refuses to eat or drink, is vomiting, or has bloody bowel movements
●Your baby is not responding to you or acting normally
Call your doctor or nurse during regular office hours if:
●You are worried about your baby’s crying or don’t know how to handle it
●Your baby spits up a lot after feedings, has diarrhea, or has trouble having bowel movements — These symptoms could mean that your baby is allergic to the formula or to certain foods.
●Your baby is older than 4 months and still having colic
●Your baby is not gaining weight normally
What if I need a break from my baby’s crying? — Put your baby in a crib, bassinet, or other safe place for a few minutes while you take a break. Try to call a friend or relative for help.
If you need a break, be sure to take one so that you don’t hurt your baby. Shaking, hitting, or hurting a baby can cause serious brain problems, or even death.