Colic is one of the most frustrating conditions parents deal with. Your baby cries for hours on end for no apparent reason, tucking those tiny knees close to the stomach as if in severe pain. Typically, the attacks start in the evening when you’re most tired and your patience is thin.

Nothing seems to stop the screaming of a colicky infant – not even feeding, changing the diaper or cuddling. Take comfort, though. Colic is rarely dangerous and doesn’t last a long time. It usually begins after an infant is two weeks old, peaks at about three months of age and most often ends by the fourth month.

The cause of colic is a mystery. Some pediatricians think it is due to an underdeveloped digestive tract. Others blame food allergies, abdominal gas, not enough sleep or over sensitivity to a busy and noisy home. Still others think it is a combination of these factors. An attack of colic may end with the passage of gas or stool.

Once in a while, colic may be an early sign of a serious medical problem. For example, in the medical condition call intussusception, the bowel becomes obstructed. A doctor can examine your baby and run laboratory tests to check for this and other medical conditions.


  • Have your infant sit rather than lie down at feeding time to avoid swallowing air.
  • If breast feeding, watch your intake of caffeine drinks like colas, coffee, cocoa and tea.
  • Stop eating milk products on a one-week trial basis. One study showed that when the mother stopped eating dairy foods, her baby’s colic often disappeared. (If you do this, check with your doctor about taking calcium supplements).
  • Do not overheat the milk or formula.
  • Make sure the bottle’s nipple holes are not too small. Tiny holes cause babies to swallow air as they suck on the nipples.
  • Try a different type of formula, i.e., a soy-based one instead of one made with cow’s milk.
  • Make mealtime a quiet, calm time.
  • Feed more frequently. Burp your baby more often.

Self-Care Tips

First, stay calm and try to relax. It takes a lot of patience and tolerance to deal with a screaming baby, especially when nothing seems wrong. While none of these self-care tips will cure colic, they may bring you and your baby some relief.

  • Be sure your baby is getting enough to eat. Hunger, not colic, may be causing the crying.
  • Try different types of purchased nipples. If the nipple hole is too small, enlarge it.

    • To check the hole size, put cold formula in the bottle and turn it upside down. Shake or squeeze the bottle.
    • Count the number of drops of formula. The right sized hole delivers about one drop per second.
    • If there are fewer drops per second, make the hole bigger by using a knife to make a cross cut over the existing hole.

  • Hold your child up for feeding and for a short while afterwards.
  • Burp your baby after each ounce of formula or every few minutes when breast feeding.
  • Use a pacifier. (Never, however, put a pacifier on a string around your baby’s neck).
  • Wrap your infant in a cozy blanket and gently rock him or her, or use an automatic swing. The back and forth motion tends to quiet a wailing baby.
  • Try what is called the “colic carry”. Carefully place your baby face down, with his/her face on your open hand and legs straddling your inner elbow. Support your baby by holding his/her back with your other hand and walk around the house for a while.
  • Vacuum while carrying your infant in a “baby carrier” worn on your chest. Apparently, the noise of a running vacuum soothes a colicky baby.
  • Play soothing music. This may benefit you as well as the baby.
  • Take your baby for a ride outdoors in the stroller or in the car.
  • Run the dryer or dishwasher. Put your baby in an infant seat and lean it against the side of the dryer or on the counter close to the dishwasher. (Stay with your baby and make sure the baby will not be harmed by the heat or steam given off by these appliances). The vibration may put your child to sleep.
  • Do not give the baby liquid antacids (such as Maalox) or simethicone drops. These have not been shown to be helpful.
  • Let your baby cry himself or herself to sleep if none of the above suggestions work. (Don’t let your baby cry, however, for more than four hours).
  • If you’re stressed, let someone else take over the care of your child for awhile. Get some rest.

Questions to Ask

Is your infant lethargic – unable to be normally active?

Yes: Seek Emergency Care


Do you feel out of control and are you tempted to strike or hit the baby?

Yes: See Doctor
Or contact a crisis intervention center.


Is your infant vomiting, having diarrhea or passing black or bloody stools?

Yes: See Doctor


Is your infant running a fever higher than 101oF?

Yes: See Doctor


Has your baby lost weight or is he or she eating less or showing reluctance to feed?

Yes: See Doctor


Is your infant less than two weeks or more than four months of age?
Yes: Call Doctor


Does any attack of colic last longer than four hours?
Yes: Call Doctor


Is your infant taking a prescription medication?
Yes: Call Doctor


Provide Self-Care

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021