|Also Listed As:
Colicky babies cry constantly and hard at about the same time each day at
least three days a week. About one in five babies, usually a firstborn boy,
develops colic. Usually seen between 2 weeks and 6 months of age.
|Signs and Symptoms|
- Your baby cries for more than three hours on at least three occasions
a week, but is otherwise healthy.
- Your baby kicks a lot, pulls his or her legs up close, and makes
- Your baby's tummy seems hard and he or she burps and passes gas
- The crying sounds like your baby is in great pain.
- Your baby spits up frequently after
|What Causes It?|
Providers suspect colic is caused by one or more of the
- The baby's nervous or digestive system may be immature
- The baby needs comforting, or is over- or under-stimulated
- If breast-fed, the baby may be reacting to something in the mother's
- Antibiotics given at birth, either to the infant or the
|What to Expect at Your Provider's Office|
Your health care provider will ask if the baby is eating well and gaining
weight or has diarrhea, fever, or unusual stools. If you are breast-feeding,
your health care provider may ask you about foods you have eaten. If your
provider decides your baby has colic, you can work together to find ways to
relieve your baby's discomfort.
Your provider will also encourage you to take care of yourself, like taking a
break or getting help if you are afraid you will harm your baby. Remember that
colic usually disappears at 6 months of age. If the treatments you choose do not
work, your baby's provider may check for other problems, such as a digestive
problem or allergy.
- If breast-feeding, nurse on demand, usually every two to three hours.
Avoid caffeine, dairy products, citrus fruits, soy products, and spicy foods.
Elevate the infant's head during and after feedings.
- If bottle-feeding, ask your health care provider to recommend a
formula that is not based on cow's milk and that is not
- Do not offer your baby solid foods before age 6 months.
- Hold your baby close, offer a pacifier, try rocking or rubbing the
back, give your baby a warm bath, take a car ride with the baby, play soft
music, or use an infant swing to ease the crying.
No drugs are currently recommended, although simethicone may be
|Complementary and Alternative Therapies|
Eliminating gas-producing foods and using supportive herbal or homeopathic
therapies can help reduce or eliminate infantile colic. In addition, playing
soft music, rocking the infant, or using "white noise" (for example, a dryer)
may be helpful in soothing the infant. Reducing stimuli and placing the infant
in a dim, quiet room may help calm the baby.
Acidophilus (especially Bifidus spp.) can be given to both the
breast-feeding mother and infant. Use 1 capsule with meals three times per day
for adults; 1 capsule per day for infants (break capsule open and administer
powder in divided doses throughout the day).
Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites
(glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise
indicated, teas should be made with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep
covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots.
Drink 2 to 4 cups per day.
A tea made from fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare) or anise seed
(Pimpinella anisum) may be given directly to the infant (1 tsp. before
and after feedings) or drunk by the breast-feeding mother (1 cup three to six
times per day). Both fennel and anise act as gastrointestinal relaxants and help
Other herbs that have relaxing effects and help reduce colic are lemon balm
(Melissa officinalis), catnip (Nepeta cateria), peppermint
(Mentha piperita), spearmint (Mentha spicata), and linden flower
(Tilia cordata). These may be added to the above tea as
There have been few studies examining the effectiveness of specific
homeopathic remedies. A professional homeopath, however, may recommend one or
more of the following treatments for infantile colic based on his or her
knowledge and clinical experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take
into account a person's constitutional type. In homeopathic terms, a person's
constitution is his or her physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An
experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most
appropriate remedy for a particular individual.
- Aethusa — for infants who cannot
digest milk, who vomit, and have diarrhea
- Belladonna — for colic with spasms
that come and go quickly; the abdomen may feel warm to the touch and symptoms
may coincide with constipation; children for whom this remedy is most
appropriate are often restless and shrieking
- Bryonia — for pain worsened by
movement and pressure; this remedy is most appropriate for irritable infants who
lie still with knees drawn up
- Calcarea carbonica — for fair-skinned
infants with foul smelling vomit, stools, and perspiration
- Chamomilla — for excessively irritable
and screaming infants who are relieved by constant holding and rocking; infants
for whom this remedy is appropriate are often teething and have green,
- Colocynthis — for restless, irritable
infants whose symptoms of colic are relieved by firm pressure; in these infants
diarrhea and pain may occur after eating fruit; infant tends to bring knees up
- Lycopodium — for infants who cannot
stand pressure on the abdomen (even diapers must be worn loosely); symptoms tend
to worsen between 4 and 8 pm and then again after midnight
- Magnesia phos — for infants whose
symptoms of colic are relieved with gentle pressure or warmth applied to the
abdomen, or while they are bent over; bloating causes the infant to loosen
clothing; belching does not relieve pain
- Natrum phos —for colic with no other
- Nux vomica — for colic which occurs
when breastfeeding mother eats rich food, drinks alcohol, or takes drugs
(recreational or medicinal)
- Pulsatilla —for infants with bloated
abdomens after eating, and constipation alternating with diarrhea; may be
aggravated by warm rooms, heat, or if the diet of the breastfeeding mother
includes fruits, fats, pastries, or ice cream; relieved by rocking
Chiropractors frequently treat infantile colic with a form of gentle spinal
manipulation specially modified for infants. The duration of treatment is
generally brief, consisting of three to four visits over a period of 2 weeks.
Studies examining the effectiveness of chiropractic for infantile colic have
produced mixed results, however.
In one study, researchers randomly assigned infants to receive spinal
manipulation or an anti-flatulence drug (called dimethicone) for a period of 2
weeks. Infants who received chiropractic care demonstrated a 67% reduction in
daily hours of colic compared to a reduction of only 38% in the dimethicone
In a different study, however, infants who received spinal manipulation for
10 minutes were compared to a group of infants held by a nurse for the same
amount of time. Seventy percent of the infants in the spinal manipulation group
showed improvement compared to 60% of those held by nurses. The researchers
concluded that the difference between the two groups was not significant and
that chiropractic spinal manipulation was no more effective than placebo in the
treatment of infantile colic.
Warm baths may help relax and soothe colicky infants. Add 3 to 4 drops of
essential oil of lavender or lemon balm to enhance the
Clockwise abdominal massage may help relieve spasm and expel gas. Use 3 to 5
drops of tincture of catnip in 1 to 2 tsp. of almond or olive oil to
enhance effectiveness. Apply warmth.
Use whatever works, and remember that your baby will outgrow the colic in a
few weeks or months. Keep in mind, however, that colicky babies often grow up to
have other allergy-related health problems, such as ear infections, asthma, and
Never shake your baby. This can cause serious or fatal brain damage. If you
are feeling overwhelmed, try the steps listed below.
- Have someone else watch your baby while you get away for a
- Join a support group.
- Call your baby's health care
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|Review Date: August 1999|
|Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Gary Guebert, DC, DACBR,
(Chiropractic section October 2001) Login Chiropractic College, Maryland
Heights, MO; Peter Hinderberger, MD, PhD, Ruscombe Mansion Community Health
Center, Baltimore, MD; Anne McClenon, ND, Compass Family Health Center,
Plymouth, MA; Paul Rogers, MD, Facility Medical Director, Bright Oaks
Pediatrics, Bel Air MD; Joseph Trainor, DC, (Chiropractic section October 2001)
Integrative Therapeutics, Inc., Natick, MA; Leonard Wisneski, MD, FACP, George
Washington University, Rockville, MD; Elizabeth Wotton, ND, private practice,
Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc
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