Baby
20 Feb 2020

On average, a newborn baby will cry for up to three hours per day (1). After all, it’s their only form of communication to alert you that they’re hungry, tired or need changing.

If your little one cries in excess of three hours per day, a health professional may diagnose them with colic.

Although the cause of medically diagnosed colic remains shrouded in medical mystery, understanding what it is, when it typically develops, what the signs and symptoms are, and tips for managing them, may help you during this period.

Follow these handy links to discover the what, when, why and how of medically diagnosed colic:

What Is Colic?

When it comes to colic, the main thing to remember is that it must be diagnosed by your doctor.

Medically diagnosed colic is characterised as a state of excessive, frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy and well-fed (1), where bouts of crying may last for three hours or more.

It’s based on the rule of three: crying for more than three hours per day, for more than three days per week, for more than three weeks (2).

These crying stints often occur in the afternoon or evening and it may often be difficult to calm a colicky baby.

But, try to keep in mind that children grow out of medically diagnosed colic and it will end (1).

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When Do Babies Get Colic?

Medically diagnosed colic is a common issue for young infants, affecting approximately one in five babies(1) and usually occurs between the ages of 2 and 16 weeks (3). It’s also worth noting that colic occurs equally in boys and girls, as well as babies who are breastfed or bottle-fed.

Medically diagnosed colic tends to appear when the baby is 2-4 weeks old, usually peaks at 6-8 weeks of age (3) and generally stops by 4 months of age (4).

Want to know more about when colic develops?

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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Colic?

  • Inconsolable crying for 3 hours or more each day.
  • Frowning or grimacing (3)
  • Flushed face (3)
  • Pulling their legs up to their chest (3)
  • Loud tummy rumblings (3)
  • Crying stops around the time that baby passes wind or faeces (3)
  • Clenching fists (1)

It’s important to remember that colic cannot be diagnosed without a health professional.

If you suspect your child may be experiencing colic, take them to your doctor for an official diagnosis and to rule out any other possible conditions.

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When Should You Talk To Your Health Professional?

Unfortunately, there’s no test for colic, so the only way to know if your baby is experiencing colic is to have them checked by a doctor (3). Your doctor may advise you about the things you can do to help your baby (1).

If you have any concerns about your baby’s health or wellbeing, talk to your health professional.

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Tips For Managing Medically Diagnosed Colic:

  • Hold your baby curled in a C (or flexed) position (crying babies tend to arch their backs and stiffen their legs) (3)
  • Try calming techniques such as baby massage, gentle rocking and patting, or a warm bath (1)
  • Use a baby sling to provide comfort and contact (3)
  • Try to remain calm and speak softly to your baby (4)
  • Apply light pressure to your baby’s tummy (5)

Usually, medically diagnosed colic stops without treatment after a few weeks (3). But, life with a colicky baby may be difficult for parent and child alike, so you may wish to try these tips to manage your little one’s symptoms in the meantime.

Remember, there’s no ‘best’ way to comfort your child and different babies respond to different comforts.

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Tips To Help Relieve Medically Diagnosed Colic

No one knows exactly what causes colic, but anecdotal evidence suggests there are some environmental factors that may contribute. Adjusting these factors while your baby is experiencing medically diagnosed colic may help to relieve their symptoms.

Diet

It’s been suggested that in breastfeeding babies, medically diagnosed colic may be a sign of sensitivity to food in the mother’s diet (5).

Therefore, eliminating potentially irritating foods such as milk products and caffeine may be helpful (5). For formula-fed babies, check that the formula is being made up correctly (1).

Lighting

Harsh lighting may be uncomfortable for some babies.

Dimming the lights may help to reduce stimulation and contribute to a calmer environment (5).

Soft lighting may also help to settle these infants (3) as may darkening the room during daytime naps (1).

Routine

Your baby’s crying may be in response to feeling overstimulated (5). After all, they are experiencing new sensations every day. Setting a routine and limiting your baby’s exposure to new, stimulating environments may help to calm them (5).

Is Colic Hereditary?

Some parents may worry that medically diagnosed colic may be ‘passed down’ from family members.

However, any baby may become colicky and there’s no evidence to suggest that colic runs in families (7).

Additionally, no two babies are the same, so even if one of your children experiences medically diagnosed colic it may not increase the likelihood of your other baby having it.

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Myths About Colic

Given the mystery that surrounds colic’s causation, it’s perhaps unsurprising that several myths have developed relating to the condition.

Remember, you should always talk to your doctor for any health-related advice, particularly when it comes to your baby. If you have any concerns about your child’s health, or if symptoms persist, talk to your health professional.

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Have you found this information helpful? If so, you may enjoy the following:

Coping With Colic: What You Need To Know

Tummy Upsets: Common Causes And How To Help Relieve Them 

References

  1. Better Health Channel (2018). Colic in babies. [online] Available at: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/colic-in-babies [Accessed 25 Feb. 2020].
  2. Al Hajeri, A. (2008). Myths and Facts about Infantile Colic. Bahrain Medical Bulletin, [online] 30(4), pp.174-176. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/242019189_Myths_and_Facts_about_Infantile_Colic [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020].
  3. Better Health Channel. (n.d.). Colic. [online] Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/colic [Accessed 25 Feb. 2020].
  4. The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. (n.d.). Crying and unsettled babies – colic. [online] Available at: https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Crying_and_unsettled_babies/ [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020].
  5. What to Expect. (2017). Colic in Babies: Signs, Causes and Tips for Parents. [online] Available at: https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/health-and-safety/what-is-colic/ [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020].
  6. Raising Children Network. (n.d.). Colic: what to do. [online] Available at: https://raisingchildren.net.au/newborns/behaviour/crying-colic/colic-what-to-do [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020].
  7. Boston Children’s Hospital. (n.d.). Colic Symptoms & Causes. [online] Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/c/colic/symptoms-and-causes [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020].

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