This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy for information.

Infant colic is a very unwelcome guest in a new family. Still some 10-20% of all newborn babies will develop colic. While no one knows exactly what causes colic, there are some theories as well as treatments that can help you to deal with your colicky baby and many sleepless nights.

In this post, you’ll learn about causes, symptoms, remedies and other parents’ testimonies of infant colic.

infant colic remedies

Colic can be incredibly hard on the family, but in the middle of everything, remember that it does pass.

Infant Colic And How To Deal With It

What is colic?

Infant colic causes and remediesWhen your baby is labeled as being colicky, it can be very stressful. It can help to understand exactly what having colic means. The name colic is given to infants who suffer from severe, unexplained crying spells on a daily basis. Many times this occurs early in the evening. So infant colic is not a medical condition. Or rather – it is not a condition that medicine has found a reason for. Hopefully, in the future, the doctors will find the reasons, so these poor babies and their parents can get more effective help.

The definition of colic is (usually) that a young baby cries for more than 3 hours more than 3 days per week and that all other reasons for the crying have been ruled out. In some places, the definition is that the baby cries for three hours every day. 10-20% of all infants in developed countries are diagnosed with colic and it is just as common among breastfed babies as formula-fed. The start of colic is uncommon among babies that are younger than 2 weeks old and older than 3 months old. Colic is very uncommon in developing countries.

Possible causes of baby colic

While no one knows for sure what actually causes colic in infants, there are some theories on why it happens:

  • One theory is that the baby’s intestines are somehow overactive, creating cramps and pain.
  • Another theory is that it is mainly gas that creates the problem.
  • There also sometimes seems to be a connection between mom consuming dairy products and colic in her infant (if she breastfeeds).

All these theories are based on the baby’s behavior during the crying spells. It looks very much as if the baby is in great pain.

However, recent research indicates that babies’ brain reactions are more similar to anger than pain. Somehow I think I could endure better the thought of my baby being furious than in pain, even if it is very stressful anyway. As far as I know, however, no one has yet been able to explain why the babies would be angry.

A theory that relates to this, however, is that colicky babies are more sensitive to overstimulation than average babies, and hence need more peace and quiet.

Symptoms

The symptoms of infant colic are quite distinct. They will suffer from uncontrollable crying spells and may even pull their legs up into a fetal position as in an attempt to alleviate pain. You may also see the baby stiffen his or her legs rigidly while clenching their fists.

Your baby may turn red from crying and may at times show signs of relief when passing gas.

The signs of colic generally start at 2 to 3 weeks of age and last up to 3 to 6 months, usually 3-4 months, though. This will not affect how your baby grows or how he or she will develop.

Possible treatments

Once you and your pediatrician have determined that your baby indeed has colic, you will want to have some sort of treatment plan to follow to see if you can alleviate some of the symptoms.

However, since the causes of infant colic are so poorly understood, the treatments available are not that great either. As a general rule, the doctor will do a series of tests to rule out any medical problems. For example, ear infections, urinary tract infections, acid reflux, and cow’s milk intolerance can give similar symptoms.

There are a number of natural remedies for colic that you can try:

  • You can feed your baby in an upright position to help eliminate too much air from being swallowed.
  • You should also try to be sure that you feed your baby in a quiet, calm room.
  • If you are breastfeeding, you may want to cut out spicy foods as well as dairy products as you could be passing it to your baby when you breastfeed and some colicky babies appear to get better when particularly lactose is completely excluded from mom’s diet. To learn more about what to eat while breastfeeding, click here.
  • If the baby is formula-fed, using a formula with no lactose in it may also help.
  • If you smoke and breastfeed, stop. Nicotine is known to cause tummy pain in infants.
  • Many babies suffering from infant colic react positively on baby massage.
  • Another interesting book (which you can check out here at Amazon) is by a pediatrician who explains why acid reflux is often mistaken for infant colic and what you can do to help your baby.
  • Another quite cute remedy is a baby tummy wrap (link to Amazon) that you can make warm. Remember how incredibly good it felt to put a warm wrap on your own tummy when the first contractions set in? A heated tummy wrap can be a great comfort for stomach pain, not just for babies with colic. Just don’t overheat it!
  • If you ever bottle-feed your baby, try using a BornFree Active Flow baby bottle. They have been shown in research to reduce colic symptoms in diagnosed babies.
  • Fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare) seed oil has also shown to reduce colic symptoms. A study (referenced below) showed a 45% reduction in infant colic symptoms and a 65% reduction of colic (as defined) in children receiving 5 to 20 ml of a 0.1% fennel seed oil emulsion up to four times per day for one week.
  • When it comes to medicines, colic gripe water is found by many parents to help their babies to some extent.
  • Some parents and also research studies support that chiropractic care of infants with colic can be effective.

There is also a “real” medicine that has proven effects on colic, but since it also has adverse side effects it is usually only given to children with particularly severe colic. Ask your pediatrician for advice.

Tips for parents

One of the first tips for parents is to try to remain as calm as possible and never take your frustrations out on your baby. Easier said than done maybe, but extremely important, of course.

If you just can’t take it anymore, it is better that you put your baby down someplace safe and walk out of the room for a while, rather than risking to hurt your baby.

The 5 S’s may provide help.

Keep in mind that babies like to be cuddled or swaddled, so wrap your baby up and try walking with him or her or rocking while you cuddle. Studies have also shown that babies that are carried a lot tend to cry less. So put your baby is a baby wrap or carrier and try to continue with your day.

Also, remember to take turns. It is extremely hard and stressful to take care of a newborn baby that just won’t settle no matter what you do. If you are a single parent, this is really the time to test your friends. Even just 10 minutes away from your crying child can help you cope with the situation.

Research References

Parents’ tips and colicky stories

Baby Colic!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I Have A Good Remedy
Our baby girl has been suffering from colic since she was 3 weeks old. Our baby was not breastfed but was bottle-fed with formula. We believe the bottles …

Colic From 2 weeks old
Our baby is now 2 months old she suffers constantly from what our doc and specialist called colic; pain and discomfort passing wind and bowel movements, …

Noah the Terrible
My son was born 37 weeks and spent 7 days in the NICU where he was a perfectly normal sleepy and hungry baby.

Soon after bringing him home I noticed …

Keeping Your Sanity With A Colicky Baby
I am a mother of 3, two of my children are adults, 22 & 19. I never imagined I would be going through the joys of babyhood in my ripe old age of 42! I …

Chiropractor’s Spinal Alignment Cured Infant Colic
How our baby’s colic was cured after two visits to the chiropractor
When my second was just 6 months old we were thrown into that stress-filled role of …

Possible Fixes For Colic
My little girl started crying after feeding then all the time from around 4-5 weeks on. She was so perfect before then at first I thought something was …

Unforgettable Time
We Found 3 Colic Remedies That Helped Our baby I will never be able to forget those months when our baby had colic!

There were a few methods which …

First Baby Colic Blues
When I brought my daughter home from the hospital, she slept for about three days solid. I thought something was wrong with her because she wouldn’t wake …

Please share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment below!

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    I have a 2 year old son and a 3 wk old baby girl who both have had and are experiencing colic. My son had a blood disorder when he was born but went away within 1 week. As soon as I brought him home I was so happy until he started having long periods of crying where no matter what I did, his father, grandmother, etc did, nothing worked.

    I had a lot of feelings of guilt like I was a bad mother, because it was very frustrating to not be able to calm my child. I also was getting no sleep because not only do colic babies have a lot of crying spells, but they don’t sleep frequent as normal babies do or for long periods of time.

    When my son was 2 months old, his pediatrician finally said try using Similac Alimentum (very expensive btw). It was a miracle for us because that seemed to do the trick for the most part, plus buying bottles that helped with gas.

    My son, who is 2 today is normal and a great and very happy toddler.

    I also have a 3 wk old newborn, who is also showing similar symptoms of colic. Not as bad as my son was… My daughter still seems to cringe when laying down like she is in pain, has a lot of gas, and mostly has her crying spells at night (where as my son cried all day and night). So we haven’t found a treatment for her quite yet but I’m taking her to the doctor tomorrow to ask what they think about me putting her on Alimentum as well. (Be careful when switching formula since it may cause gas or bowel movement problems as well)

    The only advice I can give to a parent is to definitely have a good support system (grandparent, husband, sister etc) because you NEED to have a break or you’ll go crazy and remember this WILL go away!

    You’re not a bad parent.

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience with colic in babies and for the tip to switch to Similac Alimentum.

      Did your baby’s doctor discuss protein sensitivity with you? Many babies that are helped by Alimentum are actually sensitive to milk protein. In Alimentum, these proteins are broken down into such tiny pieces that even babies that are allergic to cow’s milk protein can digest them without a problem.

      The tendency to develop allergy is often hereditary, so if some kinds of allergy run in your family, it wouldn’t be too strange if both of your children develop it too.

      Another interesting possible cause of infant colic is acid reflux. Babies with acid reflux are in pain since the stomach fluid travels back up into their throat. Acid reflux is more common in some families than in others and hence may also have a hereditary component to it.

      A brilliant book that discusses both milk allergy and reflux and their connections to colic is Colic Solved: The Essential Guide to Infant Reflux and the Care of Your Crying, Difficult-to- Soothe Baby (Link to Amazon, where you can read more about the book.) Highly recommended to anyone who doesn’t want to settle with just enduring their baby’s crying.

      Hope this helps,

      Paula

  2. Avatar

    My son had colic for 4 1/2 months. He cried day and night and we did not sleep. Instead, I walked the floor with him trying my best to offer what comfort I could. We did not sleep much and when we did it was with my son sleeping on my chest with me in the middle of my bed with pillows stacked on both sides to prevent any falls. I knew it was not the ideal way for either of us to sleep, but it was the only way we got ANY! If your baby has colic there will be moments when you feel you can’t go on and life can start to seem unfair, but it will get better. Just hang on to that and keep going for the sake of your child. My son is now a happy and healthy ten month old that is walking and talking up a storm. Bless all who have this issue with their child. I was more exhausted with this than when I was working full time job that required travel and going to college taking double full time schedule. Peace be with you and know that your child is
    a gift and cherish even these hardest of times for they will make you appreciate the good times when they come.

  3. Paula @easybabylife

    Hi Barbara and thank you. I had never heard about constipative colic before. Parents, if any of you have tried this, please let us knwo how it went!

  4. Avatar

    I was living a nightmare with my colicky baby! It was just so sad to see my daughter in pain not only in the evenings but practically ALL DAY! Nothing would settle her and I tried absolutely everything so just ended up crying with her because I felt so helpless and alone with this problem. I had no sleep and neither did she. It was the hardest, most stressful thing I’ve ever been through. I would rather go through labour pain again than see my baby suffer the way she did with severe colic and the doctors just kept telling me she will grow out of it.. all I wanted was a cure!

    Anyway at the time it feels like a lifetime of suffering but colic really does go away. For us, it gradually started getting better at 4 months! 🙂

    All you need is patience remember it is not your baby’s fault she / he’s in pain… I could never get angry at her… my sympathy and love for my daughter helped me get through it and now she’s a healthy happy 9 month old 🙂

    If I managed to get through colic almost 24 hours a day for 4 whole months TRUST ME so can you xx

  5. Avatar

    I used the Juju Band methods that I found on their BlogSpot and I had success with it. The band was easy to use. I got it as a gift from a friend that said her grandmother used something similar on her when she was an infant and she was passing the tradition along to me.

Leave a Reply