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Colic usually refers to the normal range of unsettled behaviour in many babies.  It is generally unexplained and crying may last for three hours or more, three or more days a week, usually occurring in the afternoon and evening (although can occur at any time of the day). Babies generally experience this between two weeks and four months of age, and most babies will go through this at some point.




There is no test for colic, however if excessive crying continues, there may be a medical reason and it is wise to consult a health care professional for advice. Once it is determined that it is ‘only’ colic, the signs that the baby is colicky may include:

  • Sudden loud and long screaming fits,
  • The baby’s hand may curl into a fist,
  • The baby’s legs may curl up, suggesting belly pains,
  • Frowning, grimacing or reddening of the face,
  • The baby cannot be comforted or soothed, and/or
  • The baby recovers, none the worse for the experience.


There is no known cause of colic. Crying is communication from the baby to their care giver that they are not comfortable or are distressed. This is a normal part of their growth and development.


Popular theories that may help however include:

  • Maternal diet – certain foods in the mother’s diet might cause symptoms of food intolerance or allergy in her breastfed baby. Common foods which may cause problems include cow’s milk, nuts and chocolate.
  • Maternal drug-taking – nicotine and caffeine in the mother’s breast milk can be attributed to infant discomfort and irritability as the baby’s body isn’t able to remove these substances efficiently. Other medications can also upset a breastfed baby and you should always consult a health care professional before taking new medication whilst breast-feeding.
  • Feeling of fullness – babies may be frightened by sensations of gas or fullness which are unfamiliar and may interpret these feelings as painful or distressing.
  • General immaturity – newborn babies may take a few months to adjust to life outside the womb, as they have to adapt to a range of new experiences and differ in how sensitive they are to physical and emotional events inside and outside their bodies.
  • Emotional distress - Babies are very in tune with the emotional world of their family, and can easily be affected by the distress of the family. Try to stay calm (easier said than done!) and don’t stress about the times when the baby has colic, if you’re stressed, the baby will feel your stress.


The content displayed on this webpage is intended for informational purposes and is a guide only. It does not replace or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Information contained on this webpage must be discussed with an appropriate healthcare professional before making any decisions or taking any action based on the content of this webpage.



Better Health Channel


Medline Plus Medical Encyclopaedia


The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne