HomeHealth articleslactose intoleranceWhat Is Colicky Abdominal Pain in Babies?

Know All About Baby Colic!

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Colicky pain usually occurs in infants and babies between ten days and three months of age. However, it can occur in adults too. Read this article to learn more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Veerabhadrudu Kuncham

Published At August 23, 2022
Reviewed AtFebruary 13, 2024

What Is Colicky Abdominal Pain in Babies?

Colic is an abdominal pain seen in young infancy and is an attack of crying. It is a common condition and usually affects one in five infants in the first few months. Sometimes, colicky abdominal pain can be frustrating for parents because the baby feels distressed for no apparent reason. Even if the parents try to console the baby, it keeps crying. Babies experience episodes of colicky abdominal pain, usually in the evening. It is difficult for the parents to decide the cause for which the baby is crying.

Typically, babies cry due to several reasons, including hunger, cold, tiredness, heat, or they want their diapers to be changed. However, infants suffering from colicky abdominal pain cry even after the parents feed, clean, and care for them. Therefore, colicky abdominal pain can be suspected when the baby cries without apparent cause and does not appear to be healthy.

What Is Colic?

Colic appears a few weeks after birth and persists until the baby is three to four months old. Sometimes, the baby might cry greatly, but the colic is usually harmless. Studies have reported that colic has no long-term impact, and the child with colic will gain weight and have a regular diet. Colic is usually short-lived. The different types of colic are listed below:

  • Renal Colic - It is an abdominal pain that occurs due to kidney stones.

  • Biliary Colic - It is a pain that occurs when the gallstone obstructs the cystic duct.

  • Horse Colic - It is a symptom of diseases that occur in horses.

  • Painter’s Colic - It might occur due to lead poisoning.

What Causes Colicky Abdominal Pain in Babies?

The causes of colicky abdominal pain are unknown. However, it is believed that it occurs due to numerous contributing factors. Researchers have explored numerous causes of colicky abdominal pain. Still, it is difficult to determine why it begins in the first few months of life and how it varies among babies. Some of the possible causes of colicky abdominal pain are listed below:

  • Underdeveloped digestive system.

  • Imbalance of the healthy gut bacteria and overgrowth of the pathogens.

  • Food allergies and intolerance.

  • Overfeeding or underfeeding.

  • Infrequent burping.

  • Childhood migraine.

  • Stress and anxiety.

  • Lactose intolerance.

What Are the Symptoms of Colicky Abdominal Pain in Babies?

It is usual for babies to fuss and cry during the first three months. After that, however, the condition is known as colic when the baby cries for more than three hours daily, three or more days a week, and for more than three weeks. The symptoms of colic are listed below:

  • The baby cries intensely and inconsolably due to pain. The face becomes red and flushed, and the baby mainly cries during the afternoon and evening. It might cry for several minutes to hours.

  • The typical feature of colicky abdominal pain is that the baby cries for no apparent reason and does not become quiet even if he is fed or his diaper is changed.

  • Changes in the body posture include a clenched fist, tensed abdominal muscles, and an arched back.

  • The baby does not sleep properly, and the sleep is usually interrupted by episodes of crying.

  • The infant might pass wind during the episodes of intense crying.

  • The symptoms are mild, and the baby might experience periods of restlessness.

How Is Colicky Abdominal Pain Diagnosed?

The doctor might conduct a physical examination to determine the causes of colicky pain, including intestinal obstruction. If the doctor finds that the baby is healthy, he might suspect colic. The doctor:

  • Measures the infant’s height, weight, and circumference of the head.

  • Listens to the heart, lungs, and abdominal sounds.

  • Examines the fingers, toes, eyes, ears, and genitals.

  • Examines the baby’s reaction to touch and movements.

  • Looks for rashes, inflammation, and other signs of allergies or infections.

How Is Colicky Abdominal Pain in Babies Treated?

Most babies outgrow colicky abdominal pain by three to four months of age. Though colic does not cause harm or severe problems to the babies, medications must be given soon if the baby finds it difficult to cope. The treatment strategies are described below:

  • Exclude Cow’s Milk Proteins - The baby can be bottle-fed with hypoallergenic milk formula, or a dairy-free diet can be given to the breastfeeding mother. The parents can try this for one week and continue further if it works.

  • Simethicone Drops - It is an antifoaming agent that reduces the amount of wind trapped due to colicky abdominal pain. Simethicone accumulates the bubbles together so they enlarge and can be quickly expelled when the baby burps. The most significant advantage of Simethicone is that it remains confined to the gut and does not enter the bloodstream. Usually, the baby is given a 2.5 mL spoonful after each feed. It can also be added to the baby’s milk or given directly into the mouth.

  • Lactase Drops - Lactose breaks down milk sugar into glucose and galactose. It is commonly observed that people with lactase deficiency develop lactose intolerance and suffer from abdominal pain and diarrhea.

The following treatments must be avoided:

  • Dicyclomine - It is a medication used to treat abdominal pain and was earlier used to treat colic. However, this medication can cause breathing difficulties, muscle weakening, seizures, altered consciousness, and coma in babies.

  • Star Anise Tea - It is a herbal tea that was earlier a popular treatment for colic. However, some types of this herbal tea are toxic and must not be used.

What Are the Home Remedies to Treat Colicky Abdominal Pain in Babies?

Though no specific treatment strategies exist to treat colicky abdominal pain in babies, the parents can do numerous things to calm the baby. The following things can be done to comfort the baby:

  • Wrap the baby firmly in a blanket when he cries.

  • Some babies respond well when their parents hold them.

  • Ensure the baby sits upright while feeding to prevent air entrapment.

  • Do not feed the baby everything at once. Instead, give him small meals.

  • Breastfeeding mothers must avoid spicy foods, tea, and alcohol to make colic symptoms less severe.

  • A hypoallergenic diet that excludes dairy products, eggs, wheat, and nuts benefits the lactating mother and helps prevent colic.

  • Give the baby a pacifier to calm him.

  • Always make sure that the holes in the bottles are of the correct size. The baby will likely swallow more air if the holes are too narrow.

  • Do not forget to burp the baby after each feed. Make the baby sit upright and hold him against your shoulder with the neck and head supported. Gently rub their stomach and back to allow the air to come out.

  • Do not pick up or put down the baby frequently as it might worsen the crying episode. Instead, take the bay to a quiet place, and dim the lights as it comforts the baby. When the parents are assured that the baby is alright, leave them in the crib for a while.

  • Take the baby for a walk in the stroller as it might comfort him. The parents can try the things that keep the baby in motion.

  • Sometimes, the infants settle down with the vacuum cleaner or washing machine noise.

  • A warm bath and a gentle massage greatly help the baby.

What Are the Complications of Colicky Abdominal Pain??

Colic does not cause any long-term problems or complications for the child. However, it can be a stressful and traumatic experience for the parents. The parents might experience the following due to colic:

  • The risk of postpartum depression increases in mothers.

  • The lactating mothers might stop breastfeeding early.

  • The parents might feel guilty, exhausted, and angry.


Colicky abdominal pain is a common condition in babies and becomes a cause of concern and dilemma for the parents. The babies become fussy and cry for prolonged periods in the late afternoon or evening. It becomes difficult for the parents to handle the baby because he does not stop crying after all possible efforts. However, the parents need not worry as the condition is not incurable. Several home remedies and treatment options are available to calm the baby and manage pain. The parents must track the baby’s symptoms and consult the doctor at the earliest to learn about the management of colicky abdominal pain.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Signs of a Baby Being Colic?

A healthy baby may be colic if the child is fussy or cries for several hours a day for no obvious reason. Colic babies usually cry from 6 pm to midnight. Colicky crying is high-pitched, louder, and more urgent than regular crying. Colic babies are more challenging to calm down.


What Is the Main Cause of Colic?

The cause is unknown but may result from several contributing factors. Possible causes include:
 - Partially developed digestive system.
 - Imbalance of bacteria in the digestive system.
 - Food allergies or intolerances.
 - Underfeeding, overfeeding, or infrequent burping.
 - An early form of childhood migraine.
 - Family stress or anxiety.


At What Stage Does Colic Start?

Colic usually starts when the child is around three weeks old and worsens when they are between four and six weeks old. In most cases, the babies get better after they are six weeks old and are entirely resolved when they are twelve weeks old.


Can Breast Milk Cause Colic?

Colic cannot be caused by breast milk, as babies who are fed formula can be colic too.


What Are the Ways to Get a Colic Baby to Sleep?

The steps involve:
 - Watch the wake windows.
 - Use the 5 S’s: Swaddle, shush, hold them on the side stomach, swing, and suck-pacifier.
 - An environment is created that is conducive to sleeping.
 - Use a shush pat.
 - Prioritize naps.


Does Colic Happen Every Night?

Extreme crying occurs at the same time every day. Colic can happen at any time, day or night.


How Long Does It Take Colic to Resolve?

Colic usually goes away on its own by three to four months.


How Long Can Colic Last in Newborns?

Colic subsides by the age of three to four months.


What Position Is Best for a Colic Baby?

The colic carry is placing the child on their belly along the forearm, which helps to soothe them. In addition, it helps place light pressure on the stomach, which helps soothe the discomfort.


Should You Feed a Baby With Colic?

The caregiver need not stop nursing as breastfeeding is not a cause of colic.


Can Overfeeding Cause Colic?

When the baby is fed too much, the baby may swallow air, which produces air, increase discomfort in the stomach and lead to crying. In addition, an overfed baby may sit up more than usual and cause loose stools.


Are Colicky Babies More Intelligent?

Colic does not affect cognitive development.


Does Colic Have Long-Term Effects?

Colic has no long-term effects on the baby's development or health.


Do Colicky Babies Smile Later?

Babies suffering from colic may not smile that often, whereas premature babies may smile later.


Does a Mother’s Diet Affect Colic?

A breastfeeding mother's diet affects the colic baby; hence the diet should include plenty of water and adequate consumption of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy sources, and lean proteins.
Dr. Veerabhadrudu Kuncham
Dr. Veerabhadrudu Kuncham



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