Infant Illnesses: Spotlight on Colic
"My two-month old baby has suddenly started crying every night! I don’t know what to do! What could it be?" See the expert advice this mom got about managing colic.
Infant Illnesses: Spotlight on Colic (Getty Images)

Having a newborn baby is overwhelming enough, but then if they show signs of illness, it can be really scary. 

At Parent24 we've put together a series on common infant illnesses, to help guide you when baby is sick.

And we'll help you to decide when you should actually panic (it's probably not as serious as you think, but let's be sure!).

Catch more installments of our #infantillness series in the weeks to come. 

A typical concern:

"My two-month old baby has suddenly started crying every night! I don’t know what to do! What could it be?"


Your baby might have what is commonly known as colic. 

While sometimes difficult to diagnose, colic is usually suspected when an infant cries for more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week, for more than 3 weeks.

This generally begins after a few weeks, and ends when the baby is around 3 months old. 

What causes colic

It is still unclear what exactly causes colic. A growing digestive system with muscles that often spasm, and a still-developing nervous system, are suspects, but other causes include:

  • Gas
  • Overfeeding 
  • Swallowed air
  • Hormones that cause stomach pain
  • Over-sensitivity or over stimulation from light or noise

Some foods have been linked to colic, including chocolate, onion and cabbage, and some babies with colic symptoms are diagnosed with a dairy allergy. 

In some cases the ingredients and the reconstitution of formula have all been implicated as causing issues for some babies. 

Whatever the cause, colic is not your fault and not a result of anything you did during pregnancy or labour. 

Also read: If the baby won't stop crying, try this clever trick suggested by a doctor

Symptoms to look out for: 

  • Occurs in paroxysmal episodes (this means a sudden increase or recurrence of symptoms) 
  • A big change in the pitch and intensity of the usual cry baby makes
  • Increased movement, such as pulling the legs against the abdomen 
  • The baby is almost, if not totally, inconsolable 

How long will it last

This is the good news, in a way: Colic almost always goes away on its own by 3 or 4 months. 

How is it spread

Colic is not an infectious disease or something a baby can pass on, the worst effect is the frustration it causes the parents as they try to figure out how to console and calm the baby. 


A baby with colic may be inconsolable and may only stop when the baby is exhausted, but doctors suggest trying the following:

  • Soothe with a dummy
  • Push the baby around in the pram
  • Wear or carry the baby in a secure baby carrier 
  • Try giving a gentle back massage
  • Some babies respond well to swaddling 
  • Ask your doctor if probiotics might help 
  • Speak to a pharmacist about available colic remedies 
  • Visit a chiropractor who may assist
  • Try to avoid foods linked to colic to see if that makes a difference

See here: WATCH: The moment a 'medical marvel' premature baby who survived a life threatening disease walks for the first time!

When to call the doctor

Colic is in itself fairly harmless, but if there is a change in the pattern of the colic episode you may decide to call for help.

If the baby begins vomiting (particularly bile), suffers from a fever or raised temperature, passes abnormal stools or has any difficulty with breathing then a health professional should be consulted immediately.

In some cases, an intestinal blockage or twisted bowel may display the same symptoms as colic, but is of course more serious. 

You can also ask a doctor or pediatrician directly via Health24 here: Ask an Expert 

Tips and mom advice 

Try to stay calm during crying episodes, because the more frustrated you are, the more restless the baby might become.

A lukewarm bath with Epsom salts can have a calming effect on the baby. 

Ask for help! Another person to share the load is invaluable at times like this. 

And just breathe: always remember to breathe. 

Compiled for Parent24 by Sinaye Mvumbi and Elizabeth Mamacos 

Source: Health24 

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