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Information from Your Family Doctor
Colic: What You Should Know
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Am Fam Physician. 2004 Aug 15;70(4):741-742.
What is colic?
Some babies cry for more than three hours a day, for several days a week, and for longer than three weeks. This crying is called colic.
Any baby can get colic. If your baby has colic, that doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with your baby.
The crying usually starts in the late afternoon or evening. Babies with colic might have a red face and clenched fists. They might pull their legs up against their stomachs. It might look like they are in pain.
Colic can start in babies as young as two weeks. It usually goes away by the time babies are three or four months old. Some babies might have colic until they are six months old.
What causes colic?
Even though colic is common, doctors are not sure what causes it.
How do I know if my baby has colic?
If your baby cries too much, your doctor will want to see the baby. The doctor will want to make sure that your baby is healthy and that the crying is not a sign of a health problem. Your doctor may ask you the following questions:
How would you describe your baby’s crying?
When does your baby cry?
Has your baby had a temperature of more than 100.4°F?
Does your baby spit up?
Does your baby turn blue or have trouble breathing when crying?
Your doctor also might want you to keep track of when and how long your baby cries.
Can I do anything to help my baby’s colic?
You can try to soothe your baby when he or she cries. Holding or rocking the baby and offering a pacifier might help.
It is usually best to keep feeding your baby the same way you always have. If you are breastfeeding, keep doing it. Changing formulas usually does not help with colic. Do not feed your baby too fast. Always burp your baby after each feeding.
Some herbal teas, such as chamomile (say: cam-oh-mile) tea, might help with colic. Talk to your doctor before you give your baby any herbal tea. It helps to show your doctor a label from the box of tea you want to use. Your doctor will want to make sure that the tea is safe for your baby and that only small amounts are given. Giving your baby too much herbal tea might keep the baby from getting the right nutrition.
There is no medicine available in the United States that works for colic. Products that are advertised as cures for colic do not help. Always talk to your doctor before you give your baby any medicine. Do not give your baby any product with alcohol or sugar in it.
Call your doctor if:
Your baby’s cry changes from a fussy one to a painful one.
Your baby stops gaining weight.
Your baby’s temperature is more than 100.4°F.
You are so tired of hearing the crying that you are afraid you might hurt your baby.
Will my baby grow up normally?
Babies who have colic grow up normally. Medical studies have shown that when babies are one year old, babies who had colic are not different from babies who did not have colic. People used to think that babies with colic were more likely to get asthma or allergies, but now doctors know that is not true.
How can I get through the times when my baby has colic?
Colic can be hard for parents to handle. It is upsetting when your baby won’t stop crying. Anytime you feel tired and upset, get someone else to watch your baby while you get some rest. If you can’t find anyone to help you, try going into another room for awhile. As long as your baby is in a safe place, it is okay to let the baby cry for a while. Remember that colic will go away when your baby gets a little older.
This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.
Copyright © 2004 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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