What is Colic?

The term of colic has been used in various ways by people over the years.  A common definition of colic is a condition in which babies, usually less than fou months of age, have periods of unexplained extreme fussiness, but are normal in every other way.  Typically, a regular pattern of crying develops in babies with colic.  The attacks of fussiness usually occur between the hours of 3:00 p.m. and midnight, when both the infant and parents are most likely to be fatigued.  The attacks are characterized by a sudden outburst of loud and more or less continuous crying.  The baby is usually sucking on its fist, wanting to eat every 15 to 30 minutes, passing gas, drawing its legs up to the abdomen, flailing the arms and legs about and turning red in the face.  The infant, however, is fine between these episodes of crying. Parents are usually convinced that the baby has a stomachache or even worse that something is dreadfully wrong with the infant.

The Cause of Colic

The cause for colic is not well understood.  Many people assume that the baby is experiencing cramping or abdominal pain because the infant is pulling its knees up to its chest.  However, babies will demonstrate this same pattern of movement with crying to anything in their environment that upsets them, such as being stuck with a safety pin or being startled by a loud noise.  For these reasons, colic is probably a much more complex issue than some abdominal pain.  Probably, colic is a response of the infant to many factors, including adjustments to feeding, the external environment, fatigue, perceived stress of the parents, among others.  With a problem as poorly understood as colic, you can imagine the treatment is quite varied.  In the past, sedatives have been used a lot, such as tincture of opium, (paregoric) and even ethyl alcohol.  Most doctors do not recommend these because they can be dangerous to the infant.

Colic is a condition that the infant will outgrow, usually by the age of four months. Infants with colic will develop normally and will have no long-lasting psychological or personality defects.  The following approaches may be helpful in treating your child’s colic.

Check your baby to make sure there is no obvious reason for crying.  Your baby should be well fed, adequately burped and appropriately dressed, including a clean, dry diaper.  Your infant should have a normal temperature with nothing obviously hurting him/her.  If your child has any other symptoms, consult the appropriate section of this booklet

If the baby is breast fed, you should consider any recent changes in your diet, which might be affecting your baby.  For both breast fed and bottle fed infants,attempts at frequent burping may have dramatic effects in decreasing the symptoms of colic.


Simethicone drops (Mylicon and Phazyme) are sometimes helpful in decreasing the amount of gas in the stomach.  The dose is one dropperful (0.6 ml) every six hours.  Again, the best way to prevent intestinal gas is frequent burping.

It sometimes helps to swaddle your baby snugly in a blanket and the rhythmic motion of a rocking chair can have a calming effect.  If late at night, and holding and rocking do not help, allowing the infant to be alone in his/her crib with the room darkened for several minutes will often encourage badly needed sleep.

If the above measures are not helpful and your infant continues to cry excessively, it is possible that he/she has another problem besides colic. Consult your doctor.  Unusual screaming which can not be explained or comforted and persists for more than two hours should prompt a visit to your physician.