What is colic in babies? Colic is a catch-all-term that refers to anything that causes your baby to cry excessively and inconsolably for a long period of time.

There are many causes of Colic in babies that we’ll discuss later in this article, but it can often get worse in the evening and at night leading to sleep deprivation and some long nights with your newborn.

Image of a baby crying in mother's arms for What Is Colic In Babies

(Click here to learn how to get a newborn to sleep.)

Colic is agony for a parent and can leave you feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and totally helpless. The good news is there are several ways to treat colic in babies, and step one is identifying the potential cause of your child’s discomfort.

What Is Colic In Babies: The Symptoms

Before we can identify the cause of your baby’s colicky behavior, we need to know what symptoms to look out for.

It’s important to remember that a fussy baby isn’t necessarily a colicky baby.

Colic usually begins in the first few weeks of life, and can be hard to diagnose right away. Your infant may have Colic if she fusses or cries excessively for more than:

  • 3 hours per day
  • At least 3 days a week
  • For more than 3 weeks in a month

Some symptoms to look out for are:

  • A red face
  • Clenched hands
  • Excessive gas or bloating
  • Crying inconsolably

What Is Colic In Babies: Potential Causes

If your baby is exhibiting any or all of these symptoms over an extended period of time, you’ll want to try soothing her with some common Colic remedies. But before you can administer any treatment, you need to identify the potential causes of your child’s discomfort.

Experts are still unsure about what actually causes Colic, but there are a few widely accepted theories within the medical community.

  1. image of cigarettes with no smoking sign over them for what is colic in babiesExposure to tobacco products. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), smoking while pregnant can cause a myriad of health problems such as premature birth, birth defects, problems with the placenta, cleft lip or palette, and an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  As if this weren’t enough, research has shown a strong correlation between tobacco use in pregnant mothers and the presence of colic in their infants. There’s a higher risk of colic in babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke is well.
  2. Lactose intolerance and other food allergies.  The rate of colic may be higher in formula-fed babies due to an allergy to the sugar in milk. This is commonly known as lactose intolerance. In rare cases, sensitivity to certain foods in mom’s diet may cause an allergic reaction in breast-fed babies. In both instances, baby may experience tummy discomfort,  which can lead to the symptoms outlined above.
  3. Infant GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). Infant GERD can trigger colicky behavior in newborns. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Signs and symptoms of GERD may include regurgitation, difficulty swallowing, coughing, wheezing, and chest pain (heartburn) – especially while lying down at night.” If your infant spits up at night when lying flat in her crib or bassinet, try using a Boppy pillow. This pillow is designed to hold your baby in a secure position, keeping her flat on her back (the safest position for your sleeping newborn), while elevating her head, neck, and chest to prevent reflux and choking.
  4. lack of crucial digestive bacteria in the intestinal tract. Probiotics are the good bacteria that reside in our digestive tracts. They help us break down complicated proteins and other particles such as lactose (the sugar found in milk).  Newborn probiotics can help your infant digest breastmilk and formula more efficiently, which can lead to less discomfort and less colicky behavior. Gerber Soothe Probiotic Colic Drops are a safe and effective way to address a lack of good bacteria in your newborn’s digestive tract. L. reuteri, the helpful bacteria present in the drops has been clinically shown to significantly reduce crying time in colicky infants.
  5. Overstimulation. Some experts believe the overstimulation may contribute to colic. This is due to the fact that around one month of age, your baby becomes much more aware of her environment. The theory suggests that until your infant learns to filter out certain stimuli within her environment she will cry at the end of the day as a way of relieving stress.

What Is Colic In Babies: Remedies and Treatments

Image of a baby crying in mother's arms for What Is Colic In BabiesThere are several ways to treat colic in newborns. Treatment will depend on the potential cause of your baby’s symptoms.

If gastrointestinal distress seems likely:

  • Apply gentle pressure to your newborn’s belly  in a counterclockwise direction to help soothe and calm your colicky infant.
  • Try Gerber Soothe Probiotic Colic Drops as mentioned earlier in this article.  The drops have been clinically shown to reduce crying time in colicky breast-fed infants by 50% in as little as one week.
  • Ask your pediatrician about anti-gas drops. These can help to reduce discomfort and crying in some babies.
  • If your infant is formula-fed, consider switching to a hypoallergenic formula designed for sensitive tummies.
  • One natural remedy that you can try is gripe water, which is a combination of herbs and sodium bicarbonate in drops.  There’s very little evidence to support that this remedy provides any relief from the symptoms of colic, but many parents swear by its calming effects.
  • Consider adjusting your diet if you suspect that a breast-fed infant might have a food allergy or sensitivity.

Remember that any changes to your diet or your baby’s medication or supplements should be discussed with a healthcare professional.

If overstimulation seems to be the culprit:

  • Try swaddling your baby. The security of a snuggly swaddle can help calm and soothe an anxious infant.  This could lead to a better night’s sleep for both you and your baby.
  • Go for a walk or move outdoors for a while. A change of scenery can work wonders for a colicky baby.
  • Use a white noise machine such as the Dohm-DS All Natural Sound Machine to lull your baby to sleep. The warmth and security of the swaddle plus the comforting white noise to which she’s become accustomed in the womb could help to calm your fussy newborn.
  • Wind down at the end of the day by dimming the lights and screening visitors in the evening.  This may help prevent overstimulation and allow you and your infant to rest easier at night.

Please keep in mind that you should never give a newborn any medications or supplements without first talking to your pediatrician.

What Is Colic In Babies: The Takeaway

So what is colic in babies? It is the single greatest test of endurance and patience that a parent may face in his or her lifetime. A colicky infant will leave you frustrated and exhausted. She will break you down until you weep right along with her. It will feel like forever. And then one day it’ll end. The crying will stop, you’ll start to sleep again, and you’ll remember why you wanted a baby in the first place.

What is colic in babies? What colic remedies have you tried? Let us know in the comment section below!

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