Colic in babies: Causes, symptoms & relief

What is colic?

Colic is an acute pain in the stomach or bowels; a cramping, gripping kind of abdominal pain that used to be called “the gripes.” Infant colic was recorded as early as the 6th century; and unfortunately, we still don’t entirely know what causes it.

Research suggests that one or more of the following can contribute to the development of colic:

  • Immature gastrointestinal system, causing spasms and painful abdominal gas
  • Overstimulation of an immature central nervous system
  • Imbalance of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract
  • Dairy sensitivity: The inability to digest milk sugar lactose produces symptoms of gas, cramps, and bloating
  • Infant temperament: some babies are simply fussier than others. If your infant is older than three months and still acting colicky, behavioural problems or illness may be the cause
  • Babies pick up on tension or anxiety. Even stress experienced during pregnancy has been found to be associated with colic once the baby was born

Colic typically starts around two weeks of age, and can last anywhere from a few days to months (usually resolves by 4 months).

 

Colic symptoms in babies

Some of the most commonly reported symptoms of colic and stomach discomfort in babies include:

  • Continuous, intense crying that may sound more like screaming
  • Your baby appears to be in great pain, yet there is no sign of injury or sickness
  • Bodily tension, noticeably in the abdomen, legs, and arms
  • Extreme fussiness – even after crying has stopped
  • Crying for no apparent reason, unlike crying to express hunger or the need for a diaper change
  • Your baby feeds well and is gaining weight despite crying/fussiness

 

How do I know if my baby is just crying normally or has colic?

Knowing whether it’s colic or simply a fussy baby can be difficult to determine, as parents know that crying and fussiness are completely normal behaviour for infants.

Most experts, however, agree that crying due to colic lasts longer than three hours per day and when noticeable symptoms (ie crying for no reason and increased fussing) don’t improve after a few weeks.

 

How to relieve colicky babies?

There are several ways to help relieve colic in your baby, including over-the-counter products and home remedies. Sometimes there is relief in symptoms after the infant passes gas or has a bowel movement. Here are some of the top remedies for colic symptoms in babies and infants:

 

Over-the-counter baby colic relief

KOLIK® Gripe Water: Our Gripe Water is specifically formulated with anti-gas and stomach calming properties to help ease the symptoms of colic in infants and babies, including gas, upset stomach, cramps, and hiccups. It contains all-natural ingredients, such as fennel and ginger, and is safe to use on newborns.

Available in Original & Alcohol-Free formulas

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Home remedies

  • Warm bath
  • Burp your baby frequently when feeding, and allow for more time between feedings to allow for proper digestion
  • Swaddling
  • Stroller walk
  • Apply heat to your baby’s tummy using warm water. A typical water bottle is too heavy so you can purchase a smaller one usually used for hands, a heating pad set on low, or a heated washcloth by dipping it in warm water and wringing it out
  • Do the “Colic Carry”: extend your forearm, palm up, and place the baby’s chest down on your arm with the head resting in your palm and legs straddling either side of your elbow. Use your other hand to support the baby and walk around until the fussing stops
  • If breastfeeding, avoid drinking bubbly drinks and other gas-producing foods that could inadvertently give your baby gas
  • Gentle massaging and cuddling

 

When should I call a doctor?

Excessive, inconsolable crying may be colic; or it could be the sign of an underlying medical problem or condition that needs to be addressed.

If you notice any unusual or worsening symptoms, particularly ones that aren’t typically associated with colic, be sure to schedule an appointment with your pediatrician to determine the cause. Potential warning signs and symptoms to look out for include:

  • Fever
  • Loss of alertness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

 

Colic relief trusted for generations

When babies suffer from digestive discomforts, such as cramps, gas, upset stomach, and hiccups, it can be frustrating for everyone involved – the parents who don’t understand why their baby is being fussy or how to soothe them, and the baby who doesn’t yet know how to communicate their discomfort and pain.

Fortunately, KOLIK Gripe Water provides fast, safe, and effective relief. Our Gripe Water is available for purchase in major grocery stores and pharmacies across Canada and online (including Amazon). Visit our Where to buy page to learn more.