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Colic (The Crying Baby): Brief Version

What is colic?

Colic is unexplained crying (not due to pain or hunger). The bouts of crying usually last 1 to 2 hours and the child acts fine between bouts. Your child usually stops crying when held. The colic starts before 2 weeks of age and usually stops by 3 to 4 months of age.

Colic tends to occur in high-need babies with a sensitive temperament. Colic is not the result of bad parenting, so don't blame yourself. Colic is not caused by too much gas.

How can I help my child?

  1. Hold and soothe your baby whenever he cries without a reason. A soothing, gentle activity is the best approach to helping a baby relax, settle down, and go to sleep. Consider using the following to calm your baby:
    • Cuddling your child in a rocking chair
    • Rocking your child in a cradle
    • Swaddling your baby in a light blanket (ask someone to teach you the burrito-wrap technique)
    • Placing your child in a windup swing or vibrating chair
    • Going for a stroller (buggy) ride, outdoors or indoors (instead of a ride in the car)
    • Running a vacuum cleaner or playing a CD. Don’t play it too loud. It can hurt the baby’s hearing.
    • Other things that might help, such as a warm bath or massage
  2. Falling Asleep on Their Own. Often babies cry because they need to sleep. If over 2 hours have passed since the last nap, this could be the reason. You have tried different ways to comfort your baby. You fed him recently. Nothing you do seems to help your baby relax. If so, it’s time to get out of the way.
    • Swaddle your baby. Place him on his back in his crib. Turn on some white noise or soothing music and leave the room.
    • Let your baby fuss until he falls asleep.

    For some overtired babies, this is the only answer. NEVER, ever shake your baby. It can cause serious brain damage. If you think you might hurt your baby, call your doctor now.

  3. Get rest and help for yourself. Avoid getting too tired. Get at least one nap a day. Ask your spouse, a friend, or a relative for help with other children and chores. Caring for a colicky baby is a two-person job.

Call your child's doctor right away if:

  • You can't find a way to soothe your baby's crying.
  • You are afraid you might hurt your baby.
  • Your baby is acting very sick or like he may be in pain.

Call your child's doctor during office hours if:

  • Your baby is not gaining weight and may be hungry.
  • You have other concerns or questions.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2018-07-13
Last reviewed: 2018-07-13
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2018 Barton D. Schmitt, MD FAAP. All rights reserved.
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