Colic in Babies: Signs, Causes and Tips for Parents

As new parents, you are excited to welcome your bundle of joy. However, you baby throws you a curveball when they cry for hours at end, while you stand perplexed what is it that happened and how you can change it to make the baby stop crying. It becomes a challenge for a mom to identify the cause of the irritation in the baby, as the baby might be crying even if it is well-fed and healthy. For a full-term baby, colic is likely to occur at the age of 2 weeks; and for a premature baby, the colic takes relatively longer time to arrive. Thankfully, this does not last for long and by the span of three or four months, colic disappears automatically. In the meantime, a little knowledge and a lot of patience will help you survive this mysterious period of endless crying.

You know the baby has colic if the following three rules apply to your baby’s crying:

  • Baby is crying for at least three hours in a row.

  • The crying episodes take place at least days in a week.

  • The crying continues like this for three consecutive weeks.

Colic vs. ordinary crying

There is no clear line which differentiates colic from crying. If you are new parents, you might find it a bit difficult to tell one apart from the other. Some of the main differences in between colic and ordinary crying are:

  • The baby seems inconsolable in colic while a crying baby can be consoled after they are fed, changes or held.

  • Each episode of a colicky baby lasts for at least three hours and sometimes much longer, however, a crying baby will stop crying after his/her needs are met.

  • Colicky periods recur generally around the same time, while there is no such pattern in a crying baby.

Causes of Colic

The exact cause of colic is a mystery to the doctors and parents alike, however, doctors do declare that it is not something which is a result of genetics or anything that took place during pregnancy or at the time of childbirth. However, there are certain possible causes which might have a link to colic.

  • Immature digestive system: The digestive system of a baby is still not fully developed at this early age, causing the food to pass through the intestines without properly breaking down. This may results in gas in the growing body and causing extreme pain. Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GER) might also be a reason for this. It is a process of backing up of stomach contents into the throat.The baby might be also vomiting or spitting up frequently because of acid reflux or digestion related problems.

  • Sensory overload: Newborns come with a built-in mechanism for blocking out sights and sounds around them, which allows them to sleep peacefully. However, towards the end of the first month, this wears off-leaving the tiny baby more exposed to the sensation around him, which in turn makes him feel overwhelmed. This results in colic crying outbursts. Colic ends when the baby finally learns to adapt to the environmental stimuli and avoid a sensory overload.

  • Smoking: Studies have unveiled many unfavorable effects on the babies whose moms smoked during pregnancy or still smoke after birth. Even though the links are not so clear and the verification is yet to happen, but colic is suspected to be triggered by second-hand smoking too. It’s crucial to not take part in or allow smoking near the baby or when you’re expecting a baby.

Symptoms of Colic:

  • Furiously crying: Baby starts crying is a furious and unstoppable way. It follows a daily routine of repeated screaming at the same time, and it takes hours before baby finally falls asleep. The baby’s face turns red, and nothing a parent could do to soothe the unbearable pain.  

  • Disturbed sleep: It happens mostly in the afternoon and evening. The night episodes of colic rob the baby of the sleeping time. A baby can sleep for a maximum of 18 hours a day, but the severe pain caused by colic significantly reduce the sleeping hours.

  • Body changes: When the colic episodes happen, the baby might be displaying some changes in the posture. The legs may get curled up, and the fists get clenched and they might have tensed abdominal muscles. They also fling their legs and arms, making it known to all that the baby is affected by colic.


  • Gripe water: The natural remedy works efficiently in providing relief from colic in babies. The major constituents of the solution are herbs and few drops of sodium bicarbonate which work efficiently to eliminate the colic gas pain.

  • Offer pacifier: Babies have a strong sucking instinct, so a pacifier can help them self-soothe and calm your colicky baby.

  • Burp: Burping your infant after every feed may help with reflux symptoms. Breastfed babies should be burped every time they are done feeding and the bottle-fed babies might need burping after every one to two hours.

  • Pressure on tummy: Rubbing the baby’s tummy in gentle circular strokes can relieve the baby’s tummy and can comforting for gassy babies. Bicycle the baby ’s little legs to relieve some pressure too.

  • Go outside: Going for a walk or a stroll around the neighborhood park or for a ride nearby, A change of scene can do the colicky baby some good and help him sooth.

  • Adore the baby: The nine months of closeness has made the baby so attached to you, that she finds separation very difficult to manage. It is suggested that if you cuddle or carry the baby, the baby relaxes basking in the closeness, and the colic decreases and disappears gradually.

  • Create white noise: Creating white noise or a humming sound makes the baby feel like he is back in the womb. Creating such ambiance comforts the baby while cutting down on any external noises which might disrupt the baby.

The bottom line remains that colic can affect any healthy child without any specific reason. Constant research on the subject is still in progress to find out the possible reason why a baby loses its regular pattern of sleeping, feeding and becomes wild. At the time when crying is at its peak, as a parent you should be physically close to the baby to soothe them in an attempt to calm them down.  Don’t stress too much as the colic is potentially non-threatening to your baby. It is in no way a question mark on your parenting, as the state of colic still manages to baffle the best of doctors. You can visit a doctor if the episodes keep coming every day or for an extended time.