The Cause of Colic: Do Doctors Finally Have the Answer?

This Just In 35

crying babyColic! That mysterious thing that makes your baby cry forever and he won't stop. Why the crying? Why so much crying?!? People have been trying to figure this one out for centuries. Is it tummy trouble -- or is it something else? Well, the latest news on colic points to tummy trouble.

A new study found that babies with colic also happen to develop a certain intestinal bacteria later than babies who don't have colic. Without that proteobacteria and probiotics, perhaps babies are having stomach pains, or getting gassy, and that's what causes colic. Have we finally found the cause of colic -- and does that mean we've finally found the cure?

Eh, probably not. I'm skeptical. First of all, this was a very small study -- just 24 babies! And it's really interesting that the researchers found a connection between bacteria and crying. But like I've said a bunch of times, just because two things happen together doesn't mean one causes the other. Correlation is not causation, as they say. So more work needs to be done before we can say this is THE answer to colic.

Anyway, I just never bought the tummy troubles explanation for colic. I have friends who went on elimination diets and swore that helped (after months of experimenting, so maybe their babies just grew out of colic by then?!?). But my pediatrician suggested the book The Happiest Baby on the Block. It suggests colic may be more about how under-stimulating life is outside the womb (too quiet, seriously). Their method for dealing with colic is to re-create the conditions of the womb for your baby. Which for us meant swaddling my son tightly, jiggling him a certain, very careful way, and running the vacuum cleaner all at the same time for a couple hours every night. Good times!

So colic -- is it caused by tummy troubles, or is it under-stimulation? We still don't know! So moms will continue living without wheat/chocolate/dairy and running their vacuum cleaners in the hopes of buying ourselves a few crying-free hours. When it comes to colic, there are no easy answers.

What do you think really causes colic?


Image via bbaunach/Flickr

colic & crying


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miche... micheledo

I do not know what causes it. But for my son, it was most definitely his stomach. I am not sure how I knew that, but I KNEW! He cried constantly for about nine months and for years afterwards would still scream at night if his stomach hurt. Now at the age of five, it has happened maybe once in the last year. So I am very interested to see what comes of this study.

March... March12momma

I meant formula, oops, stupid phone but seriously, most babies with colic are formula fed.

linzemae linzemae

My friend breastfed and her baby was colic.. so formula isn't always the reason

nonmember avatar NoWay

My youngest son was exclusively breast fed for the first few months and he had colic. I don't see what formula has to do with it.

mande... manderspanders

My friend's 2 babies couldn't tolerate breast milk... they screamed and screamed, threw up, and screamed some more.  Even going with high dollar sensitive formula, it only mildly calmed their cries, but they could keep it down.  Mostly it seems to be something they grew out of.

SuzyB... SuzyBarno

I totally think that there is a 4th trimester outside of the womb. For the first 3 months of a child's life we should try to mimic the feeling of being in the womb. Babies were secure there. Worked for both my kids. Neither had colic and I formula fed and did the 5 "s's" from day 1. I firmly believe in a tight swaddle, have to do it right or it won't work.

nonmember avatar FarmersWife

It's stupid to think that all extremely upset babies are for the right reason. Babies are not all the same and their needs can all be very different. Many people swear by swaddling. My son hated it. He was much happier sprawled out skin to skin. Many parents that have 'tried everything' have no co slept, breastfeed, went on an elimination diet for at least a month, changed routines, changed detergents, etc. miss one thing and you haven't tried everything and the countless medical conditions that could make a baby very unhappy. I've even seen a friends baby that is so simply and obviously over tired. They believe in keeping him up so he will sleep later and it doesn't work. So they keep him up even more and skip naps because he doesn't sleep well :(

miche... micheledo

I exclusively breastfed and know several moms with colicky babies that only breastfed.  I also find it a little bit rude or unknowledgeable to suggest you don't have colicky babies because of the way you parented.  Parents in all walks of life have colicky babies.  It is the most exhausting, brain wracking thing to deal with.  No sleep for days and months on end because you are desperately trying to comfort an inconsolable baby.  I honestly felt like I was close to insanity, if you touched me I would break into a million pieces and disappear.  I feel for the moms who deal with this and just want to fix it.  It's ROUGH!

Sometimes some things worked to calm him, but nothing worked all the time.  It's rough.  And for the most part, I DO think there is a reason they cry some much.  Something is bothering them or is not right.  So I think these kinds of studies are so beneficial.  Even if it isn't the answer to every colicky baby, it might be for some or even many!

JessL... JessLogansMommy

Colic is the worst thing that could happen to anyone! I exclusively breastfed my son and he was colic.  I did notice a huge difference immediately when I cut all dairy out of my diet but it was stilll rough. So not only did I have no sleep, but i had no milk in my coffee for the first year.   He just went from screaming all night to sleeping 1-2 hours before waking up and screaming.  Trust me, having a 2 year old in the house, there was no "understimulating" conditions in my house.  

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