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Colic in Babies: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

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 each comfort measure listed below for a brief time 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 or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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?

  • 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.
  • 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. 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 he or she doesn't get too warm.
  • Change his or her position. Hold your baby so that you put gentle pressure on the belly. Try placing your baby over your knee or with his or her belly over your lower arm and head at your elbow.
  • Sometimes a walk outside in a front pack or stroller can change a baby's mood. Some parents find that their baby is soothed by riding in the car.
  • Bathe your baby. If your baby likes the water, try giving him or her a warm bath.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You are afraid that you are about to harm your baby and you can't find someone to help you.
  • Your baby has been shaken, has a change in his or her level of consciousness, or has trouble breathing.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your baby cries in a strange manner 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 or nurse advice line 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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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.