Colic is a term used to describe a baby who is well, but who cries an excessive amount of the time.
Formal definitions describe it as a well-fed and otherwise well infant less than three months old who cries for more than three hours per day, for more than three days per week, for at least three weeks. Babies are affected from around three weeks of age, and usually improve by around three months.
Colic is often worse in the early evening and can affect up to 20% of babies.
Caring for babies with excessive crying or colic is very difficult, worrying, tiring and frustrating for parents.
Working out what is causing the crying and how to make a difference is not easy. Multiple factors are likely at play. As a result, treatment options are not very well understood – what works for one baby may not work for another.
Is it the gut?
One popular explanation is that there is an increase of gas or other irritation in the gut causing windy pain and discomfort. The type of feeding doesn’t seem to influence whether a baby gets colic, but it does affect treatment suggestions. Adjusting a baby’s diet or gut bacteria to try to reduce any gas build up is often tried.
If a baby is breast-fed, some suggest adjusting mum’s diet to reduce any allergens (in particular dairy food), which may irritate the baby’s gut. There is no clear evidence these changes make any significant difference. The risk of following these dietary changes is reducing nutrition for mum, and hence baby. Changing from breast feeding to formula feeding to treat colic is not advised.