Is it Colic or Something Else? When Your Baby’s Crying Doesn’t Stop

By Carolina Boyd, Communications Associate

A crying infant can signal many things. It can mean the baby is hungry, or needs a diaper change. It may also be a sign that the baby is just very tired. However, what do you do if despite your best efforts your baby does not stop crying? You may be dealing with colic.

Colic is a condition that causes frequent, prolonged and intense episodes of crying. This common condition can be stressful and frustrating for parents namely because the baby’s distress occurs for no apparent reason. In addition, no amount of consoling brings any relief to the baby.

Episodes of colic frequently appear about the age of six weeks old and decline significantly after three-to-four-months. Fortunately, excessive crying often resolves with time. Common colic symptoms include:

  • Intense crying similar to constant screaming or an expression of pain
  • Extreme fussiness even after crying has diminished
  • Predictable timing, usually in the evening
  • Facial discoloration, such as reddening of the face
  • Visible tension or stiffening of infant’s body, such as pulled up legs, clenched fists or arched back

Doctors are not sure what causes colic. It may be due to digestion problems or a sensitivity to something in the baby’s formula or that a nursing mom has eaten. Some colicky babies develop gas because they swallow too much air while crying. Fortunately, colic does not cause short-term or long-term medical problems for a child.

Changes in feeding practices may provide some relief. Bottle-feed your baby in an upright position and burp him frequently during and after feedings. Using a curved bottle will help with upright feeding, and a collapsible bag bottle can reduce the intake of air.

Your baby’s pediatrician may also recommend dietary changes. If you feed your infant formula, your doctor may suggest changing formula.  If you are breast-feeding, you may try eliminating common food allergens from your diet such as dairy, eggs, nuts and wheat. You may also try eliminating potentially irritating foods, such as cabbage, onions or caffeinated beverages.

The primary goal is to soothe a colicky child as much as possible. Parents and caregivers may find it helpful to have a plan or a list of soothing strategies to try. You may need to experiment since some work better than others may. Options include:

  • Using a pacifier
  • Taking your infant for a car ride or on a walk in a stroller
  • Rocking your baby
  • Giving your baby a warm bath
  • Rubbing your infant’s tummy or placing your baby on the tummy for a back rub

Excessive, inconsolable crying may be colic or a sign of an illness or another condition that causes pain or discomfort. Schedule an appointment with your baby’s Legacy pediatrician by visiting our website or calling 832-548-5000 to determine what is causing his or her health issue.