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Daily Dose

Colic & Your Baby

1.30 to read

While my middle son was home for a long weekend, the discussion about who was the most “difficult” baby in our family came up once again. Whew, COLIC!!!  I still cringe thinking back about the first 6 months of my now 26-year-old's life.

No one really knows what causes colic and there are many different definitions of colic. The word is derived from the ancient Greek word Kolikos, which means “pertaining to the intestines”. (vague enough)

Colic typically begins somewhere between the 3rd and 6th week of a newborn’s life. Doctors have looked “up and down” for medical problems with these babies and I can attest to the fact that the most frustrating (although reassuring) thing is that they are HEALTHY.

Colicky babies cry and they cry much more than the average baby. While most newborns cry somewhere around 3 -4 hours/ day, a colicky baby will cry for hours on end. While doing so they typically draw their legs up, get stiff and arch their backs and turn bright red and I remember our son even seemed to get hoarse from crying so much. Colic typically occurs throughout the day and night which is different than that evening fussy spell that most babies experience. The crying makes parents feel anxious, frustrated, exhausted, concerned and everyone just wants an ANSWER! If you can solve the mystery of colic you will win the Nobel Prize in medicine as well as the hearts of every parent.

As physicians I tell parents that colic is “short lived” and “self-limited”, but those terms are relative when you are living through what we affectionately termed, “baby hell”. After listening to incessant crying short lived means less than 10 minutes! Colicky babies have very intense cries, whether they are wet, startled, need to burp or are just uncomfortable. They tend to be tense andjust never seem to relax.

A colicky baby is difficult for any parent, whether you are a first time parent or “seasoned”. It is difficult to not blame yourself for your babies crying and the fantasy of that “perfect baby” is shattered. These babies are not “like babies on TV”. A colicky baby provokes exhaustion and can lead to things like breast feeding failures, marital discord, post partum depression and even child abuse.

 So what do you do and what are the current theories?  More to come….

Daily Dose

How to Treat a Colicky Baby

1.30 to read

We talked a little about colic earlier this week, so now it’s time to talk about some of the theories about what causes colic and some of the different approaches to treating it.


#1 Minor GI problems:  gas, cramps and tummy issues. But if that is the case why does colic start at 2 -3 weeks of age as babies have gas beginning at birth and they will pass gas well after they are 3 months old. I do hear parents complain that gas gets worse at about 4 weeks of age?  Babies also swallow a lot of air when they are crying and parents often try OTC simethicone drops, although typically with little help. There may be some placebo effect?

Some parents feel as if they get some relief by changing formula and at times an elemental formula such as Nutramigen nor Alimentum seems to help. For a breast fed baby many recommend eliminating many different foods from a mother’s diet. I too tried eliminating almost everything and would try to only have chicken, rice and bland foods. In my case (not statistically significant) my colicky baby remained colicky and I was miserable giving up so many foods.

I decided to eat what I wanted as it did not seem to make a difference and I was less stressed and also felt better eating again. Baby was still fussy.

#2 Major GI problems:  Gastrointestinal reflux is the buzz word these days. The diagnosis has increased at least 20 fold.  It is estimated that only 2 – 4% of colic is really related to reflux .  Reflux actually peaks at a later age, around 4 months, and resolves around 8 months, long after symptoms of colic have resolved. Regardless, many parents want a trial of anti-reflux medication but the latest studies show that PPI’s (proton pump inhibitors) rarely help the symptoms of reflux and are not routinely recommended.  

#3 Maternal Anxieties: this is counter intuitive as it seems that a colicky baby typically causes the anxiety and not vice a versa.  Colicky babies are not necessarily first born children either and most mothers would admit that they were more anxious with their first child (who might have been a placid baby).  I just don’t see the correlation. It does become a vicious cycle though as everyone ends up stressed, tired and anxious.

#4 Infants have immature neurological systems:  Babies are not yet “hard wired” when they are first born. They have all sorts of immature reflexes including a moro reflex, irregular breathing patterns (called periodic breathing of the newborn), quivers etc. During the first 3 months a baby’s entire neurological system slowly matures and an infant begins to have purposeful movements, starts to smile and just seems to get easier. Some call this period of time the 4th trimester. This makes a lot of sense to me, as colic seems to gradually improve, with TIME.

What is there to do to soothe a colicky baby:  DO WHATEVER HELPS (within reason), I can remember taking advice from total strangers and I was a pediatrician!! Some seemed absurd but I can tell you I bought all sorts of gizmos to see if anything would soothe my unhappy baby.

Babies who are colicky usually like the following:

Swaddling – Whoever invented the “miracle blanket” really was a genius!! It makes swaddling so easy. There are numerous methods to swaddling but with practice it is easy. 

Swaying – whenever you have a baby you learn to “rock” while you are holding them. After about a week of parenting, it almost seems like instinct. Once you have been a parent, any time someone hands you a baby you automatically begin to SWAY. Swings work well too

Shshshing……..  Quietly whispering this sound to a baby seems to be calming as well.  Babies also like to hear soft music or soft lullabies with the same sounds repetitively.  Remember, “Hush Little Baby”, always a good one. When your voice wears out try the hairdryer or vacuum cleaner in the background. Some parents swear by a white noise machine.

Sucking - As I have said many times, I am a huge believer in a pacifier. Infants need to suck to calm themselves. They need to suck to eat but there is also a need for non- nutritive sucking.  The biggest problem is that baby’s have a tongue thrust and often spit out the pacifier just as you get them calmed, but even having to put it back in is often worth it!

Stomach – fussy baby’s often calm when they are on their tummies. But, with that being said NEVER let your baby sleep on their tummy. It is hard to turn that quieted baby over once asleep but you MUST, even if you are watching them!

I wish I knew the reasons for colic or the miracle to end the long days and nights. I do know that the majority of these irritable colicky babies suddenly blossom into happy, joyful 4 month old infants.

Lastly, any help is welcome when you have a newborn, especially a fussy one. Accept offers of help and take a break and get out of the house for an hour to take a walk or grocery shop in solitude. All parents need breaks!

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow. 

Daily Dose

Study: Treatment for Colic

A new study looks a treatment for your baby's colic. Having had a baby who suffered with colic, I am always interested in reading any new studies that are related to new findings on treating colic.

Colic, which affects up to 25% of all infants, results in frequent and inconsolable crying throughout the day, and seems to have no "known" etiology. Parent's are at their wits end and are ready to do anything to help console their baby (yet alone get some rest themselves). I am convinced as both a parent and a doctor that the person or persons that discover the cure for colic will not only win the Nobel Prize, but will also win the hearts of every parent who has ever suffered "with" their colicky baby! A study in the March, 2011 issue of Pediatrics from researchers at the Peninsula Medical School in the UK, looked at 15 different studies of over 940 babies and different treatments for colic.  These studies included complimentary and alternative medicines that have been used including supplements, herbs, sugar water, probiotics, massage and reflexology. The review basically showed that none of the "treatments" were found to work consistently and the study design was even often flawed.  There were some "encouraging results" for fennel extract mixed herbal teas and sugar water, but all of these needed further study. So, once again it comes back to the basic tenet for treating colic, "Tincture of Time" and "TLC". I'll keep reading and for those of you looking for a "fix", I assure you I have felt your pain, and the only thing I can add is "this too shall pass".  None of these medicines is easy to swallow! Do you have a favorite treatment for colic? Let me know and we’ll share it.

Daily Dose


1:30 to read

I just read an interesting article in the journal Pediatrics on the subject of infant colic. It was a review of over 5600 articles that looked at the “mean duration of fussing and crying an the presence of colic in infants in the first 3 months of life”. If you have had or currently have a “colicky baby” this is quite interesting, as it looked at the incidence of “colic” in numerous countries as well.


The study evaluated the” mean total fuss/cry duration during 24 hours at ages 1-2 weeks (11 samples), 3-4 weeks (6 samples), 5-6 weeks (28 samples), 8-9 weeks (9 samples), and 10-12 weeks (12 samples).Interestingly the peak fussy crying period was highest in the first 6 weeks of life (17-25% of infants) and dropped by 8-9 weeks of age (11%)  and by 10 -12 weeks less than 1% of infants were reported to be “colicky”.  On average, babies around the world cry for around 2 hours per day in first two weeks, peak at 2 hours 15 mins at six weeks - and crying reduces to 1 hour 10 minutes by week twelve. (My son was not in this study…as he was colicky far longer than this study reported!!)


The study also found that infants in Denmark, Germany and Japan had less fuss/cry duration than infants in Canada, Italy and the United Kingdom.  What is that about?  It could be any number of variables including genetics, climate, socioeconomics and cultural factors….but I can remember feeling so helpless with an infant with colic (yes, even as a pediatrician…may have been worse knowing that there was not an answer) that I might have considered buying a plane ticket to Denmark!! Desperate times require desperate measures.


This study did not solve the mystery of colic nor did it give any answers to how to “treat” the fussy/irritable/colicky baby….but it did help to reassure parents around the world that this phenomena is universal…and that these babies do improve with time. You only wish that your baby could verbalize and explain to you what was going on in those first few months….but that may happen one day in the future…for now it is just an unknown, stressful situation for a parent…and the baby seems to outgrow it and has no memory of this experience.  (I have asked my own son who just looks at me with a puzzled expression?).


In the meantime parents with colicky fussy babies do require extra support and reassurance that their baby will be fine,  and ask their pediatrician if  their baby is growing and developing normally. But with all of that information …are there any “bargain fares” to Denmark and Japan???




Your Baby

Happier Mom - Less Colicky Baby?


There’s an old saying that husbands have used many times, “happy wife, happy life.” Now it seems there may be a new saying about to trend, “happy mom, less colicky baby.” It doesn’t have the rhyme or snappy cadence, but it may be true none the less, according to recent research.

In a new study of 3,000 mothers, relationship happiness, a solid support system and an involved partner were found to protect against colic -- defined as crying or fussiness three or more hours a day.

"Maybe the baby cries less if the mom and dad are happier," or mothers in happy relationships may not view their baby's crying negatively and may not report it as colic, suggested study senior author Kristen Kjerulff of Penn State College of Medicine. 

Having a supportive partner and receiving support from friends and family were also associated with a lower risk of colic, according to the study.

The participants were ages 18 to 35 years old and gave birth at 75 hospitals in Pennsylvania between January 2009 and April 2011. Nearly 12 percent of the mothers said their infants were colicky.

However, the happier a woman said she was with her relationship with her partner during and after pregnancy, the lower the risk of colic in her infant. This was true even among women with postpartum depression and among those whose partner was not their baby's biological father, the study reported.

Interestingly, the research showed that babies of single mothers had the lowest rate of colic. The single women reported having higher levels of general social support.

"If you don't have a partner, you can still have lots of social support, lots of love and lots of happy relationships, and all of that's going to be better for the baby," said Kjerulff, a professor of public health sciences.

Other research has linked increased colic in babies with a mother’s anxiety and lack of support during pregnancy, as well as post partum depression.

The study does not prove a causal relationship between happier mothers and less colicky babies, but an association between the two.

The study results were published recently in the journal Child: Care, Health and Development.

Story source: Robert Preidt,

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