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Colic

All babies cry, but sometimes a baby will cry for hours at a time, no matter what you do. Colic is a term that used to describe uncontrollable crying in a healthy baby. Colic is not a disease; it is a condition that causes otherwise healthy babies to cry and cry without getting any comfort. It usually happens in the evening and at night, just when parents are also feeling tired.

Colic usually follows the “rule of three.” Crying starts in the first three months after birth and continues more than three hours a day, more than three days a week.

What causes colic?
 
Doctors are not sure what causes colic, but it may be the result of a baby's sensitive temperament and an immature nervous system. These things may make a baby cry easily and have trouble stopping. As babies grow and develop, they are better able to control their crying.

Colic is not caused by pain or illness; nor is it related to health conditions, such as digestion problems. But having gas in the belly can make crying worse.

What are the symptoms of colic?

  • Cries as if in pain after feeding. 
  • May pass gas or vomit.
  • Pulls the knees up to the chest as with a bad stomach ache.
  • Can’t be comforted for long, no matter what you do.

How can I soothe my baby’s crying?

  • You could lay your baby tummy down and rub his back, or lay the baby on his back and rub his tummy.
  • Place a warm cloth on her tummy or bathe your baby.
  • Some babies with colic like “white noise” such as static on the radio or a running vacuum cleaner.
  • If your baby is bottle-fed, check to make sure the nipple is full of milk so your baby isn’t swallowing air during feedings.
  • If you smoke and your baby has colic, try cutting out or reducing the number of cigarettes for a few days to see if it makes a difference. Nicotine from smoking is passed into breast milk and may make your baby fussier.

What can I do?

  • If your baby has colic, ask for and let other people help with the baby, meals, and other children.
  • Do what you can to comfort your baby, but accept that sometimes nothing works. If you feel stressed or worn out, ask a friend or family member to give you a break. Take good care of yourself, and remember that colic will go away soon.
  • It is important to remember that colic is not your fault or your baby's fault. It doesn't mean that you are a bad parent or that anything is wrong with your baby.
  • Talk to your doctor or public health nurse, who can offer support and practical suggestions.

For help you can contact: 

  • Newfoundland and Labrador Health Line 1-709-888-2929
  • Pediatric Telephone Advice 1-866-722-1126 or local 722-1126
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Updated May 9, 2013