Colic (Excessive Crying)

What is colic?

All babies cry for various reasons including hunger, exhaustion, wet diaper etc. Sometimes babies cry repeatedly, for hours at a time, even when they are well fed, cleaned and well cared. These babies may have colic. Parenting a irritable, inconsolable baby may be very challenging.

Colic is often defined as, a well- fed and healthy baby who cries more then 3 hrs/day usually around the same time each day, for more than 3 days / week for more than 3 weeks. This is usually worse during the first 3 months of life with a peak at about 6 weeks.

What are the symptoms of colic?

In an otherwise healthy and well fed baby,

  • Intense-inconsolable cry: The crying episode occurs the same time every day and is inconsolable. Each crying episode has a clear beginning and end.
  • The crying during this episode is different from normal crying due to hunger or tiredness. It is usually louder and may sound as if the baby is in pain.
  • They may tense their abdomen and draw their knees up during this episode.

What causes colic?

The exact cause for colic is not known. Some of the theories for the cause of colic include milk allergy, lactose intolerance, reflux, immature gut, excessive swallowing of air, abnormal temperament etc..

How is colic diagnosed?

Colic is usually diagnosed on the basis of the pattern of the crying episode and making sure the child is not crying due to any other serious conditions like obstruction of intestine, any infection, or a fracture etc. Your doctor would rule out the above serious conditions by a good physical exam and some lab tests or X-rays.

What to do during the crying spell?

Try to limit stimulation by keeping the lights and voice low during the expected fussy time. Once the crying starts then, try to take him/her out for a walk in a stroller or gently rock the baby in a quiet room. Do not panic and be patient. Seek medical help if the cry is prolonged and greater then 3 hrs.

How is colic treated?

Colic usually improves on its own after 4 months of age. Some of the suggestions that you can try at home include

  • If you are a breastfeeding mom- then avoid caffeine, spicy foods.
  • Do not overfeed or force-feed your baby.
  • Do not give any drink other than milk (like juices) to the baby. Breast milk is always the best food for any infant.

Do not get tensed or frustrated when the baby has the crying episodes.

There is no evidence of benefit with medications like Simethicone, benadryl or any other antispasmodic medications and homeopathic medications.

There is some evidence for benefit with probiotics (substances that have live bacteria or yeast, which helps maintain the balance of good bacteria in the digestive tract).

When to seek help?

Contact your doctor if you notice any of the following

  • If the baby could have had any injury or fallThe baby has cried for more than 2-3 hrs
  • If the baby has any fever (>38oC or 100.4oF), vomiting or bloody stool.
  • If the baby is lethargic or refusing to eat or drink.

Does GRIPE WATER help the colic???

There is clear evidence that Gripe Water does not seem to help relive colic in babies. It may even be harmful to babies as some of the commercially available brands in market may contain harmful contaminants in it. DO NOT USE GRIPE WATER.

Author: Dr S Boopathi, MBBS, MD Paediatrics (AIIMS).