Symptoms & Causes

ColicCalm, NZ

The Cause and Treatment of Newborn, Infant and Baby Colic

by T.A. Lawrence B.Sc., CIRM, CPMP


It is not uncommon for newborn babies to go through periods when they appear abnormally irritable or seemingly cry for no reason. However, if you suspect your baby is suffering from colic, you may look for the following symptoms:

  • cries vigorously for long periods, despite efforts to console
  • symptoms occur around the same time each day or night, often after meal times, and usually ending as abruptly as they began
  • shows signs of gas discomfort and abdominal bloating
  • has a hard, distended stomach, with knees pulled to the chest, clenched fists, flailing arms and legs, and an arched back
  • experiences frequent sleeplessness, irritability and fussiness

In most cases, colic is the worst pain a baby has thus experienced. It is usually manifested as an acute abdominal pain with intense spasmodic cramping, but since colicky babies cannot describe exactly what distresses them, it is hard for parents to know the precise cause of their distress. Infantile colic is most common in the first few weeks to four months of an infant’s life; rarely does it endure past six months of age. Pediatricians often use the “Rule of Three” to diagnose colic: “A baby that cries for three or more hours per day, at least three times per week, within a three month period”. Wess, et al., “Paroxysmas fussing in infancy.” Pediatrics 1984:74:998. About 25 percent of babies worldwide meet the official “Rule of Threes” criteria for medical diagnosis of colic.

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