Your complete online medical source

Navigate by theme:


Return to index

Infant and Child Health


Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

Colic is not a disease; it is a condition that causes otherwise healthy babies to cry inconsolably, usually in the evening and at night. Doctors aren't sure what causes colic. It is believed to be caused by abdominal pain due to intestinal gas.

All babies cry, so how do you know if your baby has colic? Colic usually follows the "rule of three": Crying starts in the first 3 months after birth and continues more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week.

Fortunately, colic goes away as the baby matures, almost always by the end of the third month--sooner for many babies. Although no single method always works to relieve colicky babies, there are a number of things you can try. Unfortunately, what works one time may not work the next. Be creative and persistent.

Home Treatment

Top of Page

  • Most important: Stay calm and try to relax. If you start to lose control, take a minute to calm down. Never shake a baby; it can cause permanent brain damage and even death.

  • Ask family and friends to help you out. Having a colicky baby can be exhausting, and you need time to rest.

  • Make sure your baby is getting enough to eat, but not too much. The problem may be hunger, not colic.

  • Make sure your baby isn't swallowing too much air while eating. Feed the baby slowly, holding him or her almost upright. Burp your baby periodically. Prop your baby up for 15 minutes after feeding.

  • If your baby is bottle-fed, use nipples with holes large enough to drip cold formula at least 1 drop per second. Babies will swallow more air from around the nipple if the hole is too small.

  • Heat formula to body temperature. Don't overheat.

  • Babies need to suck on something for up to 2 hours a day to be satisfied. If feedings aren't enough, use a pacifier.

  • Keep a regular routine for meals, naps, and playtime. Mealtime should be quiet and undisturbed by bright lights and loud noises.

  • Make sure your baby's diaper is clean, that he or she isn't too hot or cold, and isn't bored.

  • Try rocking or walking your baby. Putting him or her stomach-down over your knee or forearm may be helpful.

  • Calm your baby with a car ride or a walk outside. Placing your baby near the hum of a clothes dryer, dishwasher, or bubbling aquarium may have a soothing effect.

  • Don't worry about spoiling a baby during the first 3 months; comforting a baby makes both of you feel better.

  • Don't leave your baby alone while he or she is crying for more than 5 to 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, try the above suggestions again.

When to Call a Health Professional

Top of Page

Colic generally does not require professional treatment unless it is accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, or other signs of a more serious illness. If the baby looks healthy and

acts normally between crying episodes, and if your emotions can stand the noise for the first 3 months, you have little cause for worry.

However, if colic lasts more than 4 hours a day, or if you feel like you need help, contact your doctor for advice.

In rare cases, colic may be so severe that you and your doctor may consider a medication for the baby. Ask about side effects.

Top of Page