Infant Colic - 8 Causes Of Colic In Babies

Published: 25th May 2010
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It is estimated that up to 25% of all babies have colic. It usually starts between the 3rd and 6th week after they are born.

There are quite a few facts about infant colic that you may not realize. These facts are:

• Colicky babies generally have a healthy sucking reflex and a really good sense of appetite and are otherwise healthy and growing well. Sick babies may seem to be colicky but they won't eat very well and they won't have the same strong sucking reflex.

• Colicky babies really enjoy being cuddled and handled. Sick babies are usually uncomfortable when they are handled.

• Colicky babies may spit up a bit, but if your baby is actually vomiting and/or losing weight something is very wrong and this is not a symptom of infant colic.

• Colicky babies usually have normal stools. If your baby is hard to soothe and has diarrhea or if you see blood in the stool, call your doctor.

8 Causes Of Colic In Babies

Hormonal Disturbances:

In the baby's body there are two important hormones, cortisone and growth hormone, and they are at their highest point in the early morning hours and lowest in the evening hours. In the first few months of a baby's life, these varying hormones are much disorganized.

By the time the baby reaches four to six months of age the pattern becomes more consistent and the colic will disappear.

Progesterone is a hormone that can have calming and sleep-inducing effects. A baby receives progesterone from the placenta at birth but the soothing effect from it generally wears off in about a week or two and it is also suggested that colic occurs if the infant does not produce enough progesterone on his own. In general, the studies surrounding this are mixed at best but they do indicate infant colic occurs less in breastfed infants because breastfed babies receive higher levels of progesterone.

Prostaglandin; which is a hormone that causes strong contractions of the intestinal muscle, has also been thought of as a culprit in infant colic. One study even showed that infants develop colicky symptoms when they were given prostaglandin therapeutically to treat their heart disease.

Cows Milk/Dairy Product Allergies:

Studies suggest that cow's milk may be causing colic in babies, your doctor may choose to substitute a soy formula for regular baby formulas, but I should tell you that even soy based formula can cause infant colic. Approximately 35% of infants who are allergic to cow's milk-based formulas will also be allergic to soy milk-based formulas.

The reason for this is because a more recent discovery is that cow's milk allergens may enter the milk of a breastfeeding mother and irritate the baby's intestines, which results in colic. In this case trying out a dairy-free diet all together may be the best thing to do.

Ear Infections:

Ear infections can also trigger colic in some babies. Some of the signs that your baby may have an ear infection are: baby seems to be in pain when they are lying down, but not while they are sitting up; she has cold symptoms such as a runny nose, draining eyes, and small fever; and she is not sleeping well. A thorough examination of your baby's ears should be part of a infant colic checkup.

Pediatric Regurgitation Syndrome:

This condition is also called gastrointestinal reflux or in more severe cases Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD). PRS is actually a recent discovery as a medical cause of infant colic. Normally when food goes down your baby's throat and into his stomach, what happens is that the stomach will contract and push whatever is already in there down into the intestines.

In some babies this does not work properly, so when the stomach contracts, some of the food is actually pushed back up into the esophagus and in some cases even out of the mouth. Along with the food that comes up irritating stomach acids, which may irritate the esophagus and cause heartburn.

Signs that reflux may be contributing to colic are: spitting up after eating frequently; colicky episodes that occur shortly after eating; often waking up at night as if in severe pain; and colic that is just not going away.

Urinary Tract Infections:

One of the most serious and most hidden causes of infant colic is a urinary tract infection. These infections are very subtle in babies; they do not begin as quickly and severely as ear infections do and in fact, they can last for quite a few weeks before they are even detected. Urinary tract infections can cause kidney damage if they are left untreated. For this reason I would suggest that fussy, colicky babies have at least three urinalyses just to be safe.

Skin Rashes:

Skin rashes may also be a cause of infant colic. Eczema, rashes caused by allergies, and diaper rashes may be the reason why the baby is colicky. When there are sudden outbursts of screaming it is reasonable to think that it may be caused by a sore bottom. The type of diaper rash that is particularly hard on baby is the raw rash that looks almost like a skin burn is caused by acid stools during diarrhea. You can bathe your baby in baking soda (one tablespoon in a couple of inches of water in baby's bathtub) to help soothe it.


This is another possible reason for colic in babies that is rarely looked at. In the early months of baby's life their stools; especially those of a breastfed infant, should be loose, soft and very often in occurrence which is about two to three times a day. Once the baby reaches 3 or 4 months some babies will normally have only one bowel movement a day. If your baby strains or turns red a lot when they have a bowel movement, and if the stool seems hard, or if it is accompanied by a few drops of blood droplets or if they have a tense, gas-filled (hard) tummy, your baby may be constipated. A visit to your doctor will tell you what to do about it.


It is also suggested that infant colic can be the result of the baby's individual temperament; which means that some babies just take a little bit longer to get adjusted to living outside of the womb.

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