What is Colic?


Colic is when an otherwise healthy baby cries or fusses frequently for no obvious reason. It’s defined as crying for more than 3 hours a day at least 3 days per week for more than 3 weeks. Colicky babies often cry from 6 p.m. to midnight.

The behavior typically begins a few weeks after birth and for a majority of babies, it is worse between 4 and 6 weeks of age.  About 15% to 25% of newborns shed many more tears than others. Babies may “grow out” of colic by the time they are 3 to 4 months old.

Remember, it is normal for babies to fuss and cry. Babies who have colic cry more than their peers, even though it has been determined that they are otherwise healthy.

Why Colic Occurs

There is no one reason to help explain colicky babies but there are several theories.  

Causes could include:  

  • Babies often fuss more at night. Serotonin levels peak in the evening. For some newborns, there is an imbalance of serotonin that naturally resolves when babies start making melatonin.
  • Some infants are gassier than others as their GI tract develops, which can result in abdominal discomfort/pain and colic.  Gas is likely exacerbated when babies have colic as a result of swallowed air during prolonged crying.
  • If your baby gags, or spits up/regurgitates forcefully while taking a bottle or breastfeeding and does it often, he/she could have reflux.  There are numerous diagnoses for it but it can often result in colicky symptoms.
  • Babies with a lip or tongue-tie will often have a poor latch, whether breast or bottle-fed.  A poor latch can result in a baby taking in excess air which then sits in the tummy, making them more uncomfortable which can then produce colic-like symptoms.
  • Food sensitivities and/or allergies may also cause colic in exclusively breastfed babies. Intact proteins from the mother’s diet can cross into the breast milk, provoking an allergy response in some infants.
  • Imbalances in normal gut flora. When born vaginally, a baby’s mouth and nose are exposed to the mother’s vaginal microbiota. This beneficial flora from the mother helps to seed and colonize the baby’s own intestinal tract. Many infants who either are born via cesarean section or rapid delivery receive little to no beneficial flora from mom like lactobacillus that is needed for milk digestion. This in turn can make infants uncomfortable creating colic-like symptoms.

Symptoms of Colic

Symptoms of colic include (though not an exhaustive list):

  • Inconsolable crying that intensifies
  • Cannot be soothed 
  • Clenched fists 
  • Arching of the back 
  • Grimaced face 
  • Pulling up of the knees
  • Forceful kicking of the feet

Treatment for Colic

Since there is no one explanation for colic, there is no one treatment to mitigate it. However,  there are multiple things you can try in an attempt to make your baby more comfortable:

  • Ensure that your baby isn’t hungry.
  • Check their diaper.  Some babies are more sensitive to wet or dirty diapers than other babies.
  • Try gently burping your baby more often after feedings to be sure that gas isn’t trapped and causing discomfort.
  • If your baby is bottle-fed, try different formulas, bottles, and nipples.
  • For nursing moms, try cutting caffeine, dairy, soy, eggs, or wheat from your diet. Only stop one food at a time so that you can eliminate specifically what might make a difference.
  • Rock or walk with your baby.
  • Sing or talk to your baby.
  • Offer a pacifier.
  • Take your baby for a ride in a stroller.
  • Give your baby a warm bath.
  • Pat or rub your baby’s back.
  • Place your baby across your lap on his or her belly and rub your baby’s back.
  • Put your baby in a swing or vibrating seat. The motion may be soothing.
  • Go for a car ride. Often, the movement of the car is calming.
  • Play music, some babies calm down with sound as well as movement.
  • Swaddle your baby to limit overstimulating motions.

How Chiropractic Care Can Help Out Little Patients with Colic

If your wee one is experiencing colicky symptoms, be sure to schedule an appointment with our chiropractors at Vaida.  Receiving regular chiropractic care as babies grow and develop, can support their adapting nervous systems.  

Our chiropractors can also check for lip + tongue-ties in newborns and share massages and stretches that you can do at home for an upset tummy that might help lessen overall body tension created by colic.

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