Colic in Babies: Reasons, Signs, Treatment & Home Remedies

Colic in Babies – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Mahesh Patil (Paediatrician)
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The most treacherous sight for new parents is to see their little bundle of joy crying incessantly. Seeing your baby in such a condition and not being able to fathom the exact cause of it can be pretty daunting for a parent. If your child is crying constantly for no reason, then he might be suffering from colic. Colic in babies can be an extremely uncomfortable experience for both the baby and as well as the parents. Approximately 30 per cent of newborn babies experience colic. Here’s all you need to know about colic in babies and how you may effectively deal with it.

Video: Colic in Babies – Causes, Signs and Remedies

What Is Colic in Babies?

Crying is very normal in babies as this is how babies express their discomfort and attract their parent’s attention to tend to their needs. But if you notice your baby, crying uncontrollably without any apparent reason, then you should not be ignorant, as he may have colic.

Colic is a condition where the motility of intestines is increased a lot which can lead to cramps and pain and indigestion. If your baby is under six months of age and has crying bouts that may last up to three or more hours, for three or more days in a week, and at a stretch for three or more weeks, then your baby may be suffering from colic. It usually appears two to three weeks after the birth and disappears by the time your baby is three to four months old. Though colic may scare you, the good news is, it will gradually subside on its own.

What Causes Colic in Infants

There is no specific reason that may cause colic in a baby; however, there may be certain triggers for it. Following are the reasons that can cause colic in infants:

1. Gastroesophageal Reflux

In this condition, the contents of the stomach of babies, like stomach acid moves upwards to the oesophagus. This leads to sharp pain or colic in babies.

2. Immature Digestive System

A newborn baby’s gastrointestinal system is still developing and thus whatever is fed to the baby passes on quickly to the intestine and does not break down completely. This may result in the formation of gas that may cause pain and colic in newborns.

3. Intolerance or Allergies

Some infants may be allergic to certain foods. Sometimes babies are lactose intolerant and thus can be allergic to breastmilk. Hence, if they are breastfed they may develop colic.

4. Sensitive Babies

It is also believed that in sensitive babies crying is a way of releasing physical tension. Therefore, colic is more common in babies who are easily stressed by strange noises and sounds.

5. Ingesting Gas While Feeding

Babies, during their feeding sessions, may ingest a lot of gas. The gas can make the babies uneasy and result in colic.

6. Mother’s Diet and Lifestyle

Some experts are of the opinion that colic may also result from the various diet and lifestyle choices of the mother made during pregnancy. Though there is no proven theory saying that the maternal intake of food causes any digestion related issues in baby, a breastfeeding mother should avoid drinking alcohol or smoking or doing any drugs which might indirectly cause harm to the child. Women who smoked during their pregnancy or smoke when they are breastfeeding are more likely to have colicky babies most probably due to abnormal or poor growth of the unborn baby inside the mother’s womb.

7. Imbalance of Healthy Bacteria

Bacteria inside our intestines help to digest a lot of food which we can’t digest completely. In the case of a newborn, the absence of this good or helpful bacteria in the gut, or the presence of harmful bacteria due to infection can cause indigestion leading to colic.

Though most cases of frantic crying in babies are generally associated with colic, however, it is not necessary that incessant crying is only indicative of colic. There are other ailments such as a hernia, stomach infections, and other diseases that can make your baby cry profusely. What is important for a parent is to identify the signs and symptoms of colic.

Signs and Symptoms of Baby Colic

To identify colic in your baby, you may look for the following signs and symptoms:

1. The Crying Pattern is Different

You may usually find a considerable difference between colic crying and normal crying. A colicky baby may give out high-pitched and loud wails.

2. Crying Bouts at the Same Time

You may notice that your baby gets colic bouts almost at the same time every day. It is observed that babies tend to get colicky mostly around late evening around 6 to 8 pm. This term is known as evening colic and is mostly associated with cow milk intake. When all your attempts to soothe your baby by feeding or rocking go in vain, it might signify to you what the problem is—yes, it is a symptom of colic.

Crying Bouts at the Same Time

3. Changing Postures

Colicky babies generally arch their back, twist their bodies, clench their fists, and straighten out their hands and legs or overlap or make scissor of the legs while crying. Change in your baby’s posture in this manner is an evident indication of colic.

4. Physical Signs

You may also look for physical signs, such as a flushed face, frequent burping, and a tighter tummy in your baby. Infants who have colic tend to inhale a lot of air and thus they burp more than usual.

It is recommended to get in touch with your doctor if you recognise any of the above-mentioned colic signs and symptoms in your baby, It is important to seek medical advice in certain cases of colic.

Medical Treatment for Colic in a Young Child

Colic, in general, does not require any medical treatment; but it is the ailment that is causing colic that needs to be identified and treated. Following may be some of the measures that may be prescribed by your doctor to treat colic pain in infants:

1. Probiotics

Probiotics or good bacteria are beneficial for your baby’s intestines as they augment the process of digestion. An added dose of probiotics may be prescribed by your doctor to ease out any abdominal discomfort that your baby may be experiencing. The added dose can be administered through formula milk or even through breast milk.

2. Gas Relief Drops or Medicine

Your doctor may give drops or medicine which relaxes the intestines and helps to relieve or pass gas trapped inside the intestines. Giving gripe water to babies is one way to relieve gas in babies.

3. Change in Formula Milk May Be Recommended

If colic is a result of lactose intolerance or allergy, then the doctor may prescribe a non lactose soy milk based formula for your baby. The hydrolyzed formula gets digested easily and is also lighter on your baby’s tummy.

Refrain from using or administering any kind of over-the-counter medicines for colic.

Home Remedies for Colicky Babies

Natural or home remedial measures may also help ease colic in babies. Following are some natural remedies for colic in babies that you can try to soothe your baby:

1. Fennel Seeds

A decoction made from infusing a teaspoon of fennel seeds in a cup of warm water can be given to the baby two to three times in a day. Fennel seeds are very effective in providing relief from gas and stomach ache.

2. Holy Basil

The antispasmodic properties of holy basil are helpful in providing relief from gastrointestinal discomforts. Dried basil leaves can be infused in a cup of warm water for a few minutes. One to two teaspoons of this decoction can be given to the baby to provide relief from colic.

3. Asafoetida

The anti-flatulent property of asafoetida works wonders in relieving colic in babies. You can take a pinch of asafoetida and make a paste of it by adding few drops of water. You may apply this paste on your baby’s tummy two to three times a day.

4. Burp Your Baby After Every Feed

Burping your baby is very important after every feeding session. Babies tend to inhale a lot of air while feeding. This air gets trapped and cause sharp abdominal pain. To avoid this, place your baby in an upright position and gently stroke his back and tummy after every feed. Also place baby over his tummy for few minutes half hour after giving feeds to help relieve gas.

5. Gentle Knee Bending Exercise

Knee bending or pushing exercise is very effective in relieving gas problems and colic pain in babies. Make your baby lie on his back and then you may bend your baby’s legs towards the knees and then push them towards the tummy. You can repeat this exercise four to five times.

6. Body Massage

Oil massages prove to be very effective in fighting colic pain in babies. Massaging aids digestion and also prevents the formation of gas. You may warm up any good massage oil (olive, almond or any baby massage oil) and massage gently in circular motions.

Body Massage

7. Apply Warm Compressions

Warm compress proves extremely beneficial for providing relief from colic. You may take a soft cloth and dip it in warm water. Get rid of excess water and apply the warm cloth on your baby’s tummy in circular motions. Follow this process twice a day.

8. Warm Bath

Bathing your baby in warm water is an excellent way to get relief from colic. Warm water bath relaxes the body and helps your baby to sleep better. Fill your baby’s tub with warm water and place your baby in the tub. You may gently stroke your baby’s tummy for any trapped gas to expel.

9. Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil has calming properties. Mix few drops of peppermint oil with your baby’s massage oil and work it up in circular motions on your baby’s tummy area. You may do this two times a day to help relieve your baby of colic.

10. Cumin Seeds

Cumin seeds are a wonderful home remedy for colic. You can soak a teaspoon of cumin seeds in a glass of warm water. You may give a teaspoon of this decoction to your baby three to four times a day.

Though the above-mentioned home remedies are effective for treating colic, it is advised that you seek medical guidance before adopting any such measures for your baby.

How to Soothe a Colicky Baby

Colic can be an extremely painful condition for a baby and can be physically and mentally exhausting for the parents. Here are some measures that you can use to provide relief to your baby:

1. Sing to Your Baby

Singing can really soothe a baby. Babies find their parent’s voice extremely soothing and it helps them to cope with the pain.

2. Try Rocking in Different Positions

With your baby’s tummy on your legs, gently rock the baby. These movements can be very soothing for the baby. However, every baby is different, therefore try and find out which position gives maximum comfort to your colicky baby.

3. Try to Distract Your Baby

Distracting is one of the best ways to make your baby forget the pain. Taking your baby out on a car ride or a stroller will be a good idea.

4. Put on Some Music

Playing some soothing music can be very comforting to your baby. Babies like melodious music and thus can stay distracted.

Put on Some Music

5. Hold Your Baby in an Upright Position

Holding the baby in this position helps the digestion process and thus prevents any kinds of refluxing.

6. Try to Change Your Diet and Lifestyle

Changing your diet and lifestyle may help in reducing colic in babies. Though there is no proven theory saying that the maternal intake of food causes any digestion-related issues in baby, a breastfeeding mother should avoid drinking alcohol or smoking or doing any drugs which might indirectly cause harm to the child.

7. Bathing

Warm water baths are effective in providing relief from colic.

8. Offering a Pacifier

Offering a pacifier can be a good idea, as sucking soothes the babies. Sometimes breastfeeds or formulas do not satiate the sucking instincts of a baby and it leads to cranky behaviour. This crankiness can increase when the baby has colic. Therefore, you may offer a pacifier to soothe your baby.

Colic does not pose any threat to your baby’s growth or development, but it can certainly be a difficult phase. You may adopt the above-mentioned measures to soothe your baby as they will help you sail through these difficult times.

When to Seek a Doctor’s Consultation

Colic is not a matter of great concern, but when these signs are apparent, you should seek immediate consultation from your doctor:

• If your baby develops diarrhoea or there are traces of blood in your baby’s stools.
• If your baby has a fever, ranging from 100 Fahrenheit or more.
• If your baby is not feeding or gaining weight properly.
• If your baby is vomiting often.
• If you notice that your baby is sleepy or groggy most of the time.
• If you feel that your baby is generally sick or may have incurred any kind of injury.

In any of the above-mentioned situations, it is recommended that you get in touch with your doctor as soon as possible to avoid any further complications.

Handling colicky babies can be difficult. The best thing that you can do as a parent is to stay calm. You may also seek help from a family member or a friend if you feel too tired or exhausted. Never shake, jolt, or hit your baby in frustration. Such actions may lead to fatal injuries and traumas in babies. If you are finding it difficult to manage, talk to your doctor about the same.

Also Read: Home Remedies for Stomach Pain in Babies

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