Babies cry. A lot. It’s what they do. But if your baby cries nonstop for more than three hours a day at least three days a week, they may have colic. A colicky baby is inconsolable, and there’s often nothing you can do to calm them down. If your baby has colic and you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s important to reach out for help.


What is colic?

Colic means your otherwise healthy baby cries excessively for no apparent reason. Healthcare providers define colic as intense crying for more than three hours a day, at least three days a week, for more than three weeks. Often, there’s nothing you can do to relieve your crying baby.

All babies cry — it’s the way they communicate their needs. But a colicky baby is inconsolable and screams without any obvious cause. The crying usually starts suddenly at about the same time every day, often in the afternoon or evening hours. However, when your baby isn’t crying, they act completely normal.

While colic in babies is harmless and passes quickly, the condition can be frustrating for parents. Managing a baby’s colic only adds to the stress and fatigue of new parenthood. Researchers have linked the condition to postpartum depression and shaken baby syndrome. Therefore, if your baby has colic, it’s important to reach out for help if you need it.

When does colic start?

Colic typically starts within the first few weeks after birth. It peaks between 4 and 6 weeks of age. Then, it usually ends rather abruptly when your baby is 3 to 4 months old.

How common is colic?

Colic is a very common condition. It affects about 20% of babies worldwide, although some studies suggest the rate is even higher. Infant colic is the reason for 10% to 20% of pediatrician visits during the early weeks of a baby’s life. Colic affects all babies equally, regardless of:

  • Gender.
  • Ethnicity.
  • Socioeconomic status.
  • Feeding preference.
  • Birth order.


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Symptoms and Causes

If your baby has colic, they may have symptoms including clenched fists, an arched back and a hard, swollen belly.
Colicky babies have repeated periods of inconsolable crying without apparent reason. Symptoms of colic in babies can vary.

What are the signs of colic?

Colicky babies are healthy infants who have repeated periods of inconsolable crying — without apparent reason. These crying episodes last for hours without stopping. Symptoms of colic in babies can vary. Colicky babies usually get fussy at the end of the day, but crying can happen at any time. Your baby can be difficult to comfort during these stretches of time. There’s no link between these periods of fussiness and hunger or discomfort. Although your baby is fussy and cries, they continue to eat well and gain weight.

Colic symptoms may include:

  • Clenched fists.
  • Legs curled up over their tummy.
  • Arched back.
  • A hard, swollen abdomen.
  • Passing of gas.
  • Active grimacing or a “painful” look on their face.
  • Face turning bright red or a deeper shade after long periods of crying.

What causes colic in babies?

Researchers don’t know the exact reason babies get colic. There are, however, several factors that may play a role, including:


What are the complications of colic?

Colic can take a toll on new and old parents alike. The overwhelming stress that colic can place on caregivers can lead to postpartum depression and shaken baby syndrome.

No matter how impatient or angry you become, you should never shake your baby. Shaking an infant can cause blindness, brain damage or even death. Let your healthcare provider know if you’re having feelings of depression or having trouble dealing with your emotions, as they can recommend ways to help.

If your baby has colic and you feel overwhelmed, reach out to a trusted friend, family member or healthcare provider for help.

Diagnosis and Tests

How do I know if my baby has colic?

You can usually diagnose colic based on the pattern of symptoms. It’ll help if you keep a record of:

  • When your baby’s crying spells occur.
  • When your baby sleeps.
  • What your baby eats and how often.
  • Your baby’s pattern of bowel movements.

Your baby’s healthcare provider may perform a physical exam to rule out a physical condition — such as esophageal reflux, an infection or an allergy — as the cause of your baby’s fussiness.


Management and Treatment

How is colic treated?

There’s no cure, but there are steps you can take to help soothe a colicky baby. You may try the following baby colic treatments.

Feeding your baby

If you’re breastfeeding (chestfeeding) your baby, keep track of all the foods and drinks you consume (food journal). You pass on everything you eat to your baby, and it can affect them. You may have to eliminate milk products, caffeine, chocolate, nuts, onions, cabbage and any other potentially irritating foods from your diet. Ask your healthcare provider if there are any medications you should avoid.

If you’re feeding your baby formula, you may want to try a different brand. Infants can be sensitive to certain proteins in formulas. Talk with your baby’s pediatrician about switching to a specific kind of formula. If food sensitivity is causing the discomfort, the colic should decrease within a few days of these changes. You can also try feeding your baby smaller meals more often. But avoid feeding your baby too quickly or too much.

Comforting your baby

Ways you can help your colicky baby include:

  • Skin-to-skin contact.
  • Rocking, either in a rocking chair or in your arms as you sway from side to side.
  • Gently stroking your baby’s head or patting their back or chest.
  • Swaddling (wrapping them snugly in a receiving blanket).
  • Singing or talking.
  • Playing soft music.
  • Walking them in your arms or a stroller.
  • Riding in the car. (Be sure to properly secure your baby in their car safety seat.)
  • Rhythmic noise and vibration.
  • Burping them to relieve any trapped gas bubbles.
  • Warm baths. (Most babies like this, but not all.)
  • Decreased stimulation. (Use quiet voices and turn off electronics such as televisions and phones.)
  • White noise, vibration and motion can be soothing.
  • Introduce a pacifier. While some breastfed babies will actively refuse it, it can provide instant relief for others.
  • Give your baby simethicone gas drops or a natural remedy such as Colic Calm®. These over-the-counter (OTC) medicines can help relieve gas.


Can colic be prevented?

Scientists aren’t sure what exactly causes colic, so there’s no way to prevent it.

Outlook / Prognosis

How long does colic last?

Although a bout of colic can be frightening to watch — especially for first-time parents — it isn’t harmful to your baby’s health. Babies with the condition will eventually outgrow it. Typically, colic goes away by the time your baby is 3 to 4 months old.

Living With

How do I take care of myself if my baby has colic?

Thankfully, colic is a short-lived issue that doesn’t have any long-term effects on your baby. But that doesn’t make it any easier on you. It can understandably be hard to look after an infant who won’t stop crying. You may be feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. Your emotions are valid. But if your baby has colic and your emotions are becoming too hard to handle, reach out to a trusted friend or family member. Ask them to watch over your baby while you take a break. Get out of the house. Clear your head. Give yourself time to calm down.

If you don’t have a trusted caregiver, place your baby in a safe place (like their crib) and leave the room. Your baby will be OK for a few minutes while you walk down the hall and take a breather. You never want to shake your baby. Shaking a baby can cause brain damage and even death. Take a few breaths and remember the crying won’t last forever.

When should I call my baby’s healthcare provider?

Call your baby’s healthcare provider if your baby stops gaining weight, shows dramatic changes in behavior or has any of the following symptoms:

What questions should I ask my baby’s healthcare provider?

  • Does my baby have colic, or is something else going on?
  • Why does my baby have colic?
  • When will it go away?
  • How should I feed my baby to avoid colic?
  • Should I hold my baby upright after they eat?
  • How should I hold my baby to make them feel better?
  • What kind of medication can I give my baby?

Additional Common Questions

What types of colic can adults get?

When you hear the word “colic,” you probably think of the kind infants get. But adults can get colic, too. Adult colic refers to pain in your intestinal or urinary system. Types of adult colic include:

  • Biliary colic: Biliary colic is abdominal pain that occurs due to a blockage in one of the ducts of your biliary tree. A gallstone is the most common type of obstruction. It usually occurs after eating a large, fatty meal that causes your gallbladder to contract.
  • Renal colic: Renal colic is intense pain between your ribs and hips (flank). It occurs due to a blockage in part of your urinary tract. A kidney stone, bladder stone and ureteral stone are the most common obstructions.
  • Intestinal colic: Intestinal colic is painful cramps in your abdomen due to a blockage in your large intestine or small intestine. This type of colic has various causes, including scar tissue, inflammatory intestinal disorders, impacted poop, and inflamed or infected diverticula.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

All babies cry, but if your baby is crying inconsolably for hours on end, they may have colic. Researchers don’t know exactly why colic happens, but it has nothing to do with your parenting. It can be frustrating, especially for new parents trying to figure out how to take care of an infant. Never shake a crying baby. If you need help, reach out to a trusted friend or family member for a break. If you don’t have any trusted caregivers nearby, reach out to a healthcare provider. They can help you carefully manage this overwhelming bump in the road of parenthood.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 06/09/2023.

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