What is Colic?

A health article about colic from Your Health Online the A to Z directory of dealing with Health Problems & nutritional Self Care Strategies

If your baby is showing signs of chronic irritability, then the infant might be suffering from a severe abdominal pain caused by spasm, obstruction, or distention of any of the hollow viscera—such as the intestines—called "colic."

Colic is one of the most common problems in babies.

In fact, it is so common that this is the kind of thing that you will be prepared for even before it occurs being a major topic in all baby books in your bookshelf.

Colic begins as early as two to three weeks and reaches its peak when the baby is about two months old.

After which, symptoms and episodes will slowly die down and at fourth month, there will be no more episodes.

Colic, to those who are not familiar with the problem, is a stomach ache that occurs after eating.

Because of the continuous pain, babies cry for hours and hours until the colic is relieved.

Crying can last for about one to four hours, depending on the severity of the pain.

Babies’ cheeks will also become red from the exertion and perhaps the pain.   

When there is colic, the belly of the baby may become distended or may become enlarged.

One leg will be bent while the other will extended straight out. The feet will become cold and the hands clenched tight because of the pain.

This is actually a common reaction for people whose stomachs pain them.

Often, it will occur late in the afternoon or early in the evening after every meal. It can however also happen any time of the day.

Not all babies suffer from colic and some even suffer less frequent than others.

Medical experts believe that genetics play a role.

It seems that if one or both parents have suffered from colic when they were babies, their offspring will also experience colic episodes.

Statistics show that 1 in every 10 babies experience colic because it is an apparent abdominal pain experienced in early infancy.

Usually, colic attacks are evident before, during and after each meal.

The cry usually starts out and can continue for 3 hours and more.

Aside from loud and excessive crying, periods of irritability, and body contractions are also apparent signs of colic.

Some of the common symptoms of Colic

Often, the only sign that parents will get is nonstop crying that can last from an hour to as much as five hours!

This can be really hard to take for parents especially those who are not used to their babies crying too much.

For first-time parents the first episode of colic can be panicking as they do not know why their little angel is crying so hard.

Crying can be the result of a lot of things. This is why it is important for parents to really know the other signs and symptoms of colic in babies before they panic or in some cases not panic.
Predictable crying episodes

Although this will not be evident at the start, a colicky baby will have crying episodes at specific time of the day. This can either occur at day or at night, often after a meal.

These episodes will recur at approximately the same time and it can last from just a few minutes to hours. It can occur once every week or everyday of the week.

It really depends on the baby and because there is no known cause, parents just have to patiently wait if there will be an episode for that day.

Gaseous state

According to some experts, colic is brought on by gas in the stomach that causes an ache.

Babies will often excrete bowels or pass gas near the end of the episode. This will relieve the problem.       

Positions of the legs and arms

Babies who have colic will manifest their pain in the way they will draw their legs to their abdomens to squeeze them in.

Their hands will also clench into fists and their abdominal muscles will harden.

Some babies who cannot take the pain will trash around and become really wild.

Their screams and cries will get louder and louder.

Crying madly

This is one of the main symptoms of colic in babies. In fact, most parents think that if their babies cry, they are either hungry or having a colic.

The cries of a colicky child is loud and intense. There is no room for a weak and sickly cry.

Their cheeks will often become red from the exertion and they will be difficult to comfort.

Types of Colic

Baby colic

Colic is a problem in the digestive tract characterized by a pain in the stomach or in the abdomen.

Until now, there is still no reason why this happens in babies.

Experts believe that colic arises from the gas in the intestines. In babies, colic starts as early as three weeks.

First signs will of course be frequent crying and screaming that can last anywhere from an hour to five hours nonstop.

It peaks during the second month and declines during the third month.

By the end of the fourth month, incidents of colic will just cease.

Horses are also known to suffer from colic and will need veterinary assistance to manage the condition.

Renal Colic

Renal colic is a type of pain that can be commonly caused by developing kidney stones.

The pain usually starts around the kidney area or somewhere below it and can radiate through the flank until the pain reaches the bladder.

The pain can be colicky in nature which means that it can come in irregular waves or intervals as opposed to being a steady continuous pain feeling.

Renal colic may come in two types: dull and acute. The acute type of renal colic is particularly the most unpleasant and has been described by sufferers as one of the strongest pain sensations felt.

The pain may also depend on the type and size of the kidney stone or stones that move through the urinal tract.

Depending on the situation, the pain may at times be stronger in the renal or bladder area or it can be equally strong in both.

Larger stones may require medical intervention for their removal in order to get rid of the pain associated with it.

Renal colic also shows some particular signs and symptoms that can help alert the individual as well as the doctor.

These symptoms usually refer to the different types symptoms experienced by patients as studied.

Some patients of renal colic may experience severe urinary pain. They may also have difficulty passing urine due to the kidney stones blocking the path.

Patients may also fell waves of pain coming from the back and radiating to the abdomen, genitals and thighs.

Pain in the small of the back can also be experienced. Renal colic may also be associated with symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.

Renal colic patients may also show signs of having a swollen abdomen that may be causing the intense pain being felt.

Other renal colic symptoms that have been observed by doctors include fever and chills.

Serious symptoms of renal colic may also include blood being found in the urine which may show that the kidney stones may already have wounded parts of the urinary tract.

In most cases, renal colic may go away on its own. Most of the small stones in the kidney or bladder easily pass spontaneously through the urinary tract and may be discharged naturally.

In such cases, only pain management for renal colic is required. In order to relieve this type of pain, a strong Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, also commonly known as NSAID can be used.

NSAID's are known to provide better pain relief than most opiate-based medication.

There are also other ways of dealing with the pain associated with renal colic.

Trying to lie down on the non-aching side of the body and applying a hot water bottle or towel into the area affected by the pain may greatly help ease some of the pain.

If the pain caused by renal colic is not that intense, frequent walking may help result in a more speedy release of the stones.

But if the kidney stones have become too large to effectively pass through naturally, surgery to remove them may be required.

If not, patients may continue to feel the recurring pain which may not be relieved effectively by other measures.

What Causes Colic

Colic is characterized by a pain in the abdomen and the stomach.

Until now, medical experts cannot find what exactly causes colic to occur. It just happens to babies without any real or specific reason.

Research shows that colic generally results from a combination of an infant's sensitive temperament, environment, and immature nervous system.

These factors can easily make a baby cry and can be difficult to stop once the period started.

Experts say that colic is Norman and is not usually related to serious health conditions like digestion problems.

It can only lead to this if the baby develops intolerance to cow's milk protein, fructose, and transmission of medication by-products during breastfeeding.

However, there are a host of possible causes that may influence or worsen a colic episode.

Here are some of them:

Allergy to cow’s milk or powdered milk

Lactose intolerance

Allergy to the foods that the mother take in and transferred to the baby through breastmilk

Increase in the intestinal gas brought on by foods that usually produce gas in the stomach such as broccoli, onion and beans.

Underdeveloped digestive system that may cause strong contractions in the stomach

Hormonal changes in the body of your baby

Anxiety of the mother and postpartum depression

Overfeeding of the baby

Risk Factors: Who are prone to Colic

Research shows that more than 20% of babies will develop Colic.

This is not a disease or a disorder but parents will have to deal with the endless hours of crying until the newborn is four months of age.

Many believe that colic is genetic.

This means that parents who suffered from colic when they were babies will also produce babies who will also have colic.

Newborn babies.

It usually starts during the first few weeks, particularly during the third week.

It peaks at two months of age and then subsides at the third to fourth month.

By the fourth month, there will usually be no more episodes of colic.

Colic often occurs in babies who are big and active, especially those who are great eaters and those who grow really well.

These babies will usually have colic episodes at specific time of day, often after each meal.

Prevention of Colic

1. Overfeeding can only worsen the situations when you have a colicky baby in your arms. Make sure that your baby is suffering from hunger and not colic before you feed him again.

2. There are certain foods that will worsen the colic. Those with high sugar content, those with undiluted juice will only increase the gas in the stomach and thus, exacerbate the condition.

3. Intestinal allergy may also cause colic so it is important for moms to know just what makes their babies allergic. It may be from something that they have directly eaten or something that you passed on through the milk in your breasts.

4. Intense feelings can also affect colic. Emotions such as anger, fear, anxiety and excitement should be avoided as this will only worsen the pain for the baby.

When To Seek Medical Attention For Colic

Check with your pediatrician if your baby is allergic to some foods or liquids that he is taking in.

Sometimes allergens that can cause colic can be passed from the mom to the child through breast milk.

It is important that you consult your pediatrician when colic starts to ensure that it is really colic that you are dealing with.

Usual symptoms of colic include extreme discomfort in a baby's tummy due to unreleased abdominal gas, but serious symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or blood or mucus in the stool are not.

If you notice these symptoms, he or she might be suffering from a more serious digestive problem that needs immediate medical attention.

Since there are no tests that can pinpoint to colic, the most that doctors can do is to exclude other possible causes of crying and screaming episodes.

Among the problems that may cause the same reactions are intestinal blockage, infection in the abdomen, an ear infection and sometimes even a scratch in the baby’s eye.

Other reasons are obstruction in the digestive tracts, hernia and problems in the bowel. 

There is currently no generally-accepted medical treatment for infant colic. Medical professionals may take different approaches in trying to treat the condition.

Many doctors believe that infant colic is currently untreatable, and is best left to normally run its course. 

What mothers can do is try to make the baby comfortable.

Soothing measures, such as the use of pacifiers and gentle rocking can be effective in calming the baby during crying periods.

Some parents can take turns holding the baby upright which also seems to lessen the pain and crying of the infant.

Certain homeopathic remedies can also be utilized as an excellent option for treating infant colic symptoms.

Homeopathic treatment is considered safe and completely allergen-free with no known side effects.

It will be up to the parent to consider such an alternative as long as they find it very effective in handling the colic symptoms.


Intense emotions may also contribute in starting a colic episode.

Parents are then advised to avoid letting their babies see their anxiety, their fear or their tension so as to avoid transferring the emotions to the babies.

Walking the infant can vastly help in alleviating colic.

Make sure that his legs are drawn up so that pressure is taken from his belly.

Parents can also try letting their babies listen to some soothing music and to rock them gently, which can help relax them.

Parents should also observe the moment when they stop crying or when the crying episode cease.

Often, crying will stop when they have passed gas or moved their bowels.

Medical treatments may include simethicone drops like Maalox, Gas-X, Mylanta, and Phazyme to relieve gas, trying alternative to milk-based formulas like whey-based formulas, soy-based formulas, and hypoallergenic formulas.

Self Care strategies for Living with colic

Parents can try massaging the infant's abdomen or back. If the massage is done properly, it can even help stimulate regular bowel movement and releasing of gas that will eventually reduce cramping that causes extreme pain.

The baby could be hungry so maybe it is time to feed it again.

The mother should make sure to make the infant burp because this could be the cause of the colic behavior a few minutes or hours from now.   

If this is the behavior of the baby during the day, maybe it is time for both to go outside.

Sometimes taking the newborn on a carriage ride will help. Giving the newborn a pacifier can also remedy the situation.

A warm bath is sometimes what parents need to relax after a stressful day at work.

Studies have shown that doing the same thing for the baby can also stop the colic behavior.

The parents should make sure that the water is not too hot for the child.

Grownups get cranky when disrupted by noise. A baby does not know that yet and will cry in order to be noticed.

The parents can play some music in the room of the baby so he or she will not suddenly wake up.

The food that the mother eats could produce gas, which causes the baby to feel discomfort.

It will be a good idea to consult with the doctor regarding the proper diet so this can be prevented.

If this still happens, maybe using Simethicone drops can work.

One way to check on the baby from time to time will be to have a monitor nearby that with one unit in the room and the other carried around the house.

The parents should take shifts to avoid feeling exhausted.

The biological clock of a baby is very different from a child or an adult.

It will still take time to develop and until that happens, the parents will have to deal with this situation. 

After all, a baby that is colic is normal since it is part of the growing phase.

This means that this is not a disease or a disorder so there is nothing to worry about.

Diet change strategies:

First advice that parents should heed is to not overfeed the child.

Sometimes, when babies cry, parents’ first instincts is to feed them, thinking that they are hungry.

Before feeding them, make sure that they are hungry and not having a colic.

Another thing that parents should watch out for is the foods that they take in.

This is especially true with moms who are breastfeeding.

Some babies are allergic to certain kinds of food and although you are not feeding those foods directly to him, they will still get the allergens through the milk that you give them.

Foods that are usually avoided are caffeine, cabbage, onions, beans, and other foods that produce gas.

Juices may also result to colic so make sure that your juices are diluted with water or better yet, just make them drink pure water when not drinking milk.  

Vitamin & Nutrient Associations

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We wish you well in your search for solutions to this problem and your movement towards better health in all areas.

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