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A to Z: Colic

All newborns cry and get fussy sometimes.  But when a baby who is otherwise healthy has several periods a week of fussiness, high-pitched crying, and difficulty being comforted, it’s a sign of colic.

Colic is defined as crying for more than 3 hours a day, for more than 3 days a week, for at least 3 weeks. But doctors may diagnose a baby as having colic before that point. 

Colic usually doesn't point to any health problems and eventually goes away on its own.

More to Know

Colicky babies have a healthy sucking reflex and a good appetite and are otherwise healthy and growing well. 

Colicky babies may spit up from time to time just as non-colicky babies do. But if your baby is actually vomiting or losing weight, call the doctor. (Vomiting is a forceful throwing up of stomach contents through the mouth, whereas spitting up is an easy flow of stomach contents out of the mouth.) Vomiting repeatedly is not a sign of colic.

Colicky babies typically have normal stools (poop). If your baby has diarrhea or blood in the stool, call your doctor.

Help ease colic by:

  • holding and rocking your baby
  • burping your baby more often 
  • feeding your baby in an upright position
  • playing soothing noises
  • putting the baby in a vibrating seat 
  • swaddling your baby gently

Keep in Mind

Caring for a colicky baby can be frustrating, so be sure to take care of yourself, too. Don't blame yourself or your baby for the constant crying — colic is nobody's fault. Try to remember that colicky babies will eventually outgrow this phase.

If your baby is crying a lot and shows other signs of illness (such as fever), the cause is not colic. Schedule an appointment to see a doctor.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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