Colic is the name for excessive, frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy. It's a common problem that affects up to one in five babies.
Colic tends to begin 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 problem will eventually pass and is usually nothing to worry about.
Signs and symptoms of colic include:
Crying is not always a sign of colic. Other reasons that babies cry include having a wet nappy, being hungry, too hot or cold, or in pain.
Caring for a baby with colic can be very difficult for parents, particularly first-time parents. It's important to remember that:
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).
There's no method that works for all babies with colic, but there are a number of techniques that may help. These include:
Some babies may also benefit from changes to their diet, such as adding drops to breast or bottle milk that aid digestion and release any bubbles of trapped air in your baby's digestive system. You should speak to a GP or pharmacist for advice before trying these.
If you are worried about your baby, you should see your doctor. They will check whether there is anything wrong that is causing your baby to cry. Always see your doctor if your baby has a high temperature, is being sick (vomiting) more forcefully than normal, has very runny or watery stool, or if their pattern of crying changes suddenly.
Babies who have colic are not ill, but they cry a lot more than babies usually do. Colic usually starts when a baby is a few weeks old and stops at 4 or 5 months. No one knows what causes it.
For some babies, colic may be a sign of a food allergy, for example sensitivity to cow's milk. Here are other things that may trigger colic:
Your doctor may diagnose colic if your baby cries a lot, but is otherwise generally well and gaining weight. Colic doesn't mean you are doing anything wrong as a parent. And colic won't harm your baby.