Colic is extreme crying in a baby between 3 weeks and 3 months of age. Doctors may diagnose colic when a baby is healthy but cries more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week, for more than 3 weeks. The crying is often more intense than normal crying.
It can be very hard to calm a baby after a session of colic has started. Home treatment will not cure colic, but it may help your baby cry less hard and less often. Try different ways to comfort your baby to see what works best. If nothing works, put your baby in a crib and stay close by. Try again after about 5 minutes. Babies usually grow out of colic by about 3 months of age.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
How can you care for your child at home?
Here are some ways you can help your baby who has colic.
- Make sure your baby is not hungry. Very young babies usually don't eat much at one sitting. This means they may get hungry 1 to 2 hours later. If your baby isn't eating much but is soothed when given food because of the sucking, try offering a pacifier or a clean finger instead.
- Try soothing your baby with motion or sound.
- Gently rock your baby or use a mechanical swing. You may also try singing quietly or playing music at a low volume.
- Try turning on something with a soft and steady sound. You could try a fan that hums, a vacuum cleaner, or a white-noise sleep machine for babies. Put the machine far from the crib and use the lowest volume to keep the baby's hearing safe from harm. And use the machine only for short periods of time.
- Combine these sounds with loving attention, such as talking and touching.
- Cuddle your baby. Hold the baby pressed close to you in your arms. Try using a front pack. You may also try swaddling, which is wrapping your baby in a blanket. When you swaddle your baby:
- Keep the blanket loose around the hips and legs. If the legs are wrapped tightly or straight, hip problems may develop.
- Keep a close eye on your baby to make sure they don't get too warm.
- Change their position. Hold your baby so that you put gentle pressure on the belly. Try placing your baby over your knee or with their belly over your lower arm and their head at your elbow.
- Take your baby for a walk or ride. Sometimes a walk outside in a front pack or stroller can change a baby's mood. Some babies are soothed by riding in the car.
- If your baby likes the water, try giving them a warm bath.
- Never shake, slap, or hit your baby. This can cause serious or even deadly brain injuries. If you feel overwhelmed, maybe you could ask a family member or friend to give you a break.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you or your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You have thoughts of harming yourself, your baby, or another person.
- Your baby has been shaken, has a change in their level of consciousness, or has trouble breathing.
Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
If you or someone you know talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away. You can:
- Call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
- Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
- Text HOME to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line.
Consider saving these numbers in your phone.
Go to 988lifeline.org for more information or to chat online.
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- Your baby cries in a strange way or for a very long time.
- Your baby has not been diagnosed with colic but cries a lot and also has symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or blood or mucus in the stool.
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- Your baby is not gaining weight.
- Your baby has no symptoms other than crying, but you want to check for health problems that may be related.
- You have tried comfort measures many times and have not been able to console your baby.
- Your baby seems to be acting odd, even though you don't know exactly what concerns you.
Where can you learn more?
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