Colic in Babies Signs and Cures

‘Baby Colic’ can be described as one of the worst discomforts felt by a baby and it can be a nightmare for parents as make them feel helpless, guilty and frustrated when all efforts fail in calming the baby down. Although almost all babies grow out from this problem by about six months of age, some babies will suffer more than the others will during early days of life.

Sings of colic:

Colic is not a medical emergency and proper understanding among parents will avoid unnecessary visits to a doctor. However, the inability to express what they feel is a hindrance to detect colic in newborns and therefore, parents and caregivers need to rely on several signs that may manifest during colic.

Inconsolable crying is one indication that the baby may be suffering from colic and in such instances; the posture adapted by the baby can help in the diagnosis. Thus, arching of the back, drawing of the knees towards the chest, distended or tight abdomen, clenched fist as well as flailing of arms and legs can be considered signs of severe discomfort felt by the baby. However, one should be careful as certain serious conditions can also make babies to react similarly and if simple measures do not console the baby, obtaining professional help is a prudent suggestion.

When looking at the timing of these signs, they may follow meals or else can occur at a particular time of the day or even at nights. The nature of the colic is to end abruptly in the same manner as it starts, and the duration of which may vary from time to time.

These babies will often be sleepless and irritable because of the disruption caused to their sleep. Thus, it can frustrate the caregivers furthermore as they too have to spend sleepless nights during this time.

In certain instances, the use of ‘rule of three’ may be useful to determine if the cry is due to colic. Accordingly, a baby, who cries for three or more hours per day, at least three times per week, with a three-month period, can be suffering from colic. However, one should remember that, ‘rule of three’ might not distinguish a ‘true colic’ in all such instances.

Causes for colic in babies:

In order to identify the rationale behind its cures, one needs to recognize the causes underlying this phenomenon.

Although doctors do not have a proper explanation for its occurrence, they do have few theories that may explain such episodes. Following are some of these theories.

-The intestine of a newborn baby is immature to tolerate certain foods or milk and may not contract rhythmically in order to allow intestinal content to move forwards. Lack of gut motility may cause food particles and air to trap within the intestine and make the intestinal walls to contract vigorously for brief periods of time to get rid of this content. Babies may feel such contractions as colic.

-Baby intestines do not contain the protective gut flora or bacteria, which aids in digestion of certain foods. Therefore, newborn babies may develop indigestion more often and therefore it may initiate the development of colic.

-Certain chemicals in foods eaten by mothers may pass on to the baby through breast milk and these chemicals may act as an allergen causing babies intestines to contract extensively thus giving rise to colic.

-Air trapping within the intestine as in the case of vigorous crying, inadequate burping as well as susceptible positioning may cause abdominal distension, which may secondarily give rise to colic.

Apart from these, there are many other theories such as emotional stress and stressors during the last trimester of the pregnancy, leading to the development of colic although they lack scientific evidence to substantiate their claim.

Cures for colic:

Many pediatricians advocate avoidance of medicines as much as possible for treating a baby with colic. The reason is the side effects, which is associated with the use of drugs. Thus, parents have to adapt emotional and physical interventions to contain the inconsolable baby.

Gentle noises such as singing will do lot of good in consoling a baby and playing a CD or making a ‘shhh’ noise near the babies ear can also help in calming the baby down. Rocking the baby gently will be another way of consoling a baby but one should always give proper back and head support during such movements.

In certain instances, allowing the baby to suck on the breast, pacifier or on a clean finger can reduce the stress and therefore the discomfort felt by the baby. At the same time, holding the baby from side or lying down on the tummy can also help in consoling some babies. Usual practice of holding the baby from the back may not settle a crying baby.

Giving a teaspoon of gripe water has also demonstrated some benefit in consoling a baby with colic. Some doctors may prescribe medicines such as simethicone to relieve the gas in the stomach, although it lacks evidence to demonstrate a significant benefit towards the actual colic.

Altering the type of feed can sometimes relieve associated colic and for babies who are formulae fed, breast-feeding may relieve the agony to a certain extent.


Although there is not much evidence to scientifically support the causes or its cures, babies with colic needs a comfortable environment, emotionally satisfying stimulants, as well as appropriate feeds for their age. When combined, these will alleviate the agony of colic and will ease the ‘burnout’, which may take place among caregivers as well.