Colic in babies: what is it and what you can do

By: Osler Health International
Posted on: 6 May 2022

Colic is a condition characterised by incessant crying in otherwise healthy, well-fed babies. The crying could begin without warning and last for more than three hours a day, three days a week, over more than three weeks.

Typically, colic in babies starts a few weeks after birth and peaks when the infant is 4 to 6 weeks old. The condition usually improves when the baby is 3 to 4 months old and resolves completely by nine months. A baby with colic can be very challenging for new mothers and we are here to help.

Symptoms of colic in babies

Symptoms of colic in babies may include: 

  • Intense crying that’s louder, more high-pitched and sounds more like screaming than regular crying.
  • Crying for no apparent reason. For example, crying even after a feed or a diaper change.
  • Having regular crying episodes. While crying can occur at any time, babies with colic tend to get fussy at around the same time every day, usually towards the end of the day.
  • Changes in posture, such as clenching their fists, curling up their legs, an arched back and a tense abdomen.
  • Facial discolouration, such as having a bright red, flushed face while crying.

Causes of colic in babies

There is no known cause of colic in babies. However, there are a few factors that could contribute to colic: 

  • Having a digestive system that is still developing 
  • Pain and discomfort from gas or indigestion 
  • Sensitivity to stimulation, such as lights and loud noises 
  • Being unable to self-soothe due to a developing nervous system 

Treatment for colic in babies

Note that incessant, intense crying episodes could be a sign of other conditions that may be causing pain or discomfort in your baby. If you find that your baby’s crying is accompanied by other symptoms like fever, vomiting and changes in bowel movement or behaviour, bring your baby to the doctor to rule out other medical conditions.

Once the doctor has ruled out other causes, there are various possible treatments for colic which may include probiotics.

How to relieve colic in babies

Here are some tips to help you soothe your baby’s colic: 

  • Give your baby small, frequent feeds and remember to burp them after each feed. 
  • Make sure your baby isn’t hungry, but avoid force-feeding. 
  • Rub your baby’s back. 
  • Change your baby’s position. For example, let them sit upright if they have been lying down. 
  • Take your baby out for a car ride. The car’s motion can be soothing for babies. 
  • Bond with your baby by talking or singing to them. 
  • Have skin-to-skin contact with your baby.

How to care for a baby with colic

While colic does not cause any immediate or long-term harm to babies, it can be a frustrating and draining experience for the caregiver. Here are some things to keep in mind when caring for a baby with colic: 

  • Never shake your baby
  • If you feel yourself getting stressed and angry at your baby’s crying, set your baby down in a safe place and go to another room to calm down till you’re ready to pick up your baby again. 
  • Ask for help from your family members or friends so that you can take a breather from caring for your baby from time to time. 
  • Know that you’re not the cause of your baby’s colic, and there’s no need to feel guilty. 
  • Colic will go away eventually as your baby gets older.

If you have any concerns about your baby’s health, consult with our kind and experienced doctors in Singapore today.

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