Colic is thenameforexcessive, frequent crying ina baby who appears to be otherwise healthy. It's a common problem that affects up to one in five babies.

Colictends tobegin when a baby is a few weeks old. It normally stops by four months of age, or by six months at the latest.

Looking after a colicky baby can be very frustrating and distressing, but the problemwill eventually pass and is usuallynothing to worry about.

Does my baby have colic?

Signs and symptoms of colic include:

  • intense crying bouts
  • cryingin the late afternoon or eveningthat lasts several hours
  • yourbaby's face being red and flushed when they cry
  • yourbaby clenching their fists,drawing their knees up to their tummy, or arching their back while crying

If your baby has colic, they may appear to be in distress. But the crying outbursts are not harmful, and your baby should continue to feed and gain weight normally.

Advice for parents

Caring for a baby with colic can be verydifficult for parents, particularly first-time parents. It's important to remember that:

  • your baby's colic is not your fault it doesn't mean your baby is unwell, you're doing something wrong, oryour baby is rejecting you
  • your baby will get better eventually colic normally stops before they're four to six months old
  • you should look after your own wellbeing if possible, ask friends and family for support as it's important to take regular breaks and get some rest

Support groups, such as Cry-sis , can also offer help and advice if you need it. You can contact the Cry-sis helpline for advice on 0845 122 8669 (9am-10pm,seven days a week).

Tips for helping your baby

There's no method that works for all babies with colic, but there area number of techniques that may help. These include:

  • holding your baby during a crying episode
  • preventing your baby swallowing air by sitting or holdingthem upright during feeding
  • burping your baby after feeds
  • gently rocking your baby over your shoulder
  • bathing your baby in a warm bath
  • gently massaging your baby's tummy

Somebabies may also benefit from changes to their diet, such as adding dropsto breast or bottle milk that aid digestion andrelease any bubbles of trapped air in your baby's digestive system.

Speak to a GP or pharmacist for advicebefore trying these.

Read moreabout treatments for colic .

DoI need to see my GP?

Colic may improveusing the techniques mentioned above. You can also ask your health visitor for their advice.

See your GP if you're concerned about your baby, or if nothing seems to be working and you're struggling to cope.

Your GP can check for possible causes of your baby's crying, such as eczema or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) .GORD is a condition where stomach acid moves back out of the stomach and into the gullet (oesophagus).

If no other cause of your baby's symptoms can be found,your GP can advise you about the things you can do to help your baby, including what treatments are available.

When toseekimmediate medical advice

You shouldget medical help immediately ifyour baby:

  • has a weak, high-pitched, or continuous cry
  • seems floppy when you pick them up
  • isn't feeding
  • vomits green fluid
  • has blood in their poo
  • has a fever of 38C or above (if they're less than three months old) or 39C or above (if they're three to six months old)
  • has a bulging fontanelle (the soft spot at the top of a baby's head)
  • has a fit(seizure)
  • turns blue, blotchy, or very pale
  • has breathing problems, such as breathing quickly or grunting while breathing

These symptoms can indicate a more serious problem. Read about spotting signs of serious illness in children for information about what to look for and where you should go for help.

What causes colic?

The cause or causes of colic are unknown, but a number of theories have been suggested. These include indigestion , trapped wind, or a temporary gut sensitivity to certain proteins and sugars found in breast and formula milk.

It has also been suggested colic may just be at the extreme end of normal crying in babies.

Colic occurs equally in boys and girls, and both in babies who are breastfed and those who are bottle-fed.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 4 Jan 2017