Treatment for Colic

In most cases, infantile colic does not require treatment and resolves by the time the infant is about 4 months old. Management of the condition may involve identifying and eliminating possible triggers (e.g., foods in the nursing mother's diet) and trying several different infant feeding and soothing techniques.

Tips for managing colic include the following:

  • During feedings, hold your infant as upright as possible. Burp the baby frequently, offer small feedings more often, and avoid overfeeding. If breastfeeding, continue to nurse. Allow the infant to empty one breast before switching sides to make sure your baby receives hindmilk (milk produced at the end of a feeding), which is higher in fat and promotes healthy weight gain and development. If bottle feeding, ask your baby's pediatrician about which bottles and nipples to use and about changing to a soy-based or hypoallergenic formula. Do not switch formulas without consulting a qualified health care provider.
  • Avoid over stimulating your baby, especially towards the end of the day.
  • Offer your baby a pacifier. Most infants have a very strong sucking reflex and a pacifier can be soothing and comforting.
  • Hold your baby often. It is not possible to "spoil" infants by holding them too much. Try a baby sling or other type of baby carrier.
  • Swaddle the baby in a light receiving blanket. Place your baby on his or her back to sleep (to reduce the risk for sudden infant death syndrome [SIDS]), but try other positions (e.g., upright in an infant seat, on his or her tummy on a blanket) while the baby is awake.
  • Use a baby swing, carriage, or vibrating infant seat to keep your baby moving. Rock your baby or take him or her for a ride in the car. However, do not drive while you are anxious, upset, or tired.
  • Sing to your baby or speak to him or her in soft tunes. Play soothing music or a CD of environmental sounds (e.g., rainfall, ocean waves).
  • Give your baby a warm bath or gentle massage. Rub his or her back or tummy.
  • Take a break if you feel anxious or frustrated. Ask another trusted adult (e.g., spouse, family member, friend) to care for the baby for awhile.
  • Take care of yourself and remember: colic is temporary. Eat a healthy diet and get plenty of exercise. Fatigue can be overwhelming when dealing with a colicky baby. If possible, sleep when your baby sleeps.
  • Contact a qualified health care provider or crisis intervention center if you are losing control and are concerned that you might harm your baby.

More research is needed regarding the use of medications and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to treat colic. Some studies have shown that certain herbs (e.g., chamomile, lemon balm, licorice, fennel) can reduce crying in colicky babies. Parents and caregivers should consult with a qualified health care provider before giving herbal remedies or supplements to infants.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 27 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 04 Sep 2015