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What is Colic?

What are the symptoms? What are the treatments?


Colic is a condition rather than an illness and the actual cause is unproven. It's characterized by babies crying uncontrollably when they're otherwise healthy.

He may cry for three hours or more a day, a shrill or piercing cry and draw his legs up to his chest. The crying may follow a pattern and often starts in late afternoon or early evening. Colic usually starts in the first month of life and usually resolves by the time a baby is around three or four months old.

The crying can be very distressing for parents, and can make you feel as if you are incapable of soothing your baby. It's important to get some respite, especially if you feel yourself becoming frustrated. See if you can hand him over to someone else while you have a short break, or put him down in his cot safely and go into another room or the garden for five minutes. If you feel unable to cope and need help, contact Cry-sis, a support group that offers telephone counseling.

What are the symptoms of Colic?

The first and most obvious symptom is intense relentless crying that follows a pattern and often occurs in the late afternoon or early evening. Your baby may go bright red in the face, draw his legs up to his chest then kick them out rigid, he may arch his back and screw up his fists.

Seek urgent medical help if his cries become weak and/or high-pitched, seems floppy when you pick him up or has a high temperature (38 degrees C or above), has a bulging fontanel or turns blue or very pale. You know your baby best, so if you are unsure, seek medical help anyway.

What are the treatments and remedies of Colic?

There are over-the-counter remedies available, which some parents report as being helpful, while others find they make no difference. Home treatments you might find soothe your baby include:

  • Lying your baby across your lap on his tummy and patting or rubbing his back
  • Rhythmic rocking, where you hold your baby face down across one forearm, supporting him with your other arm and rocking from side to side
  • If you are breastfeeding winding him midway through a feed may help as well as at the end. If you are bottle-feeding, try using an anti-colic teat
  • Holding your baby high up against your shoulder and rubbing his back
  • Give him a warm bath and gently rub his tummy

This guide

This article is not meant to substitute medical advice provided by a practicing medical professional - if you have any concerns, contact your physician immediately.

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