Advice from a Pediatrician on How to Help a Colicky Baby
By: Dr. Payal Adhikari
Pediatrician, Clinical Implementation Director
Welcoming a newborn is a wonderful but often nerve-wracking experience, especially for new parents. When you add colic into the equation, it can leave even the most seasoned parent feeling frustrated, exhausted, and powerless. Much of the frustration lies in not knowing what causes the fussiness, and changing routines, diets, etc. without improvement. Scientists now believe colic symptoms are caused by discomfort inside your baby’s stomach. More on that later.
What can you do to help your baby overcome colic symptoms? Let’s go through some frequently asked questions and discuss ways to help a colicky baby (and their parents!) get some relief.
What exactly is colic?
The term “colic” is often used interchangeably with “fussiness,” but there are some key differences. Colic is often defined by crying intensely for three or more hours a day, three or more days a week, for three or more weeks.
Symptoms of colic include discomfort, gassiness, tummy bloating, crying, body tension, and difficult sleeping. Colic typically peaks during a baby’s first two months and starts winding down between three and four months of age.
Colic is different from other sources of infant crying in that we don’t know exactly what’s causing it. It’s not hunger, a dirty diaper or tiredness—and it’s this inability to fix the “problem” that makes it so frustrating!
What causes colic?
On average, one in four babies in the U.S. has colic symptoms. It is believed that colic is related to an immature digestive system or the types of bacteria found in baby’s digestive tract. Research shows that babies with higher levels of bacteria in their digestive tracts have lower amounts of the good bacteria needed to protect the gut and support the developing immune system.1
Can probiotics help with colic?
Yes! There is a specific strain of beneficial bacteria called B. infantis that can support babies’ gut health. Studies show that 90% of babies in the U.S. are missing it due to generations of antibiotic usage, c-sections, and other necessary medical interventions that have unintended impacts. 2
Evivo is a safe way to ensure B. infantis colonizes your baby’s gut. A recent research study showed that babies that have B. infantis in their microbiome. Additional studies show that Evivo helps protect the mucous layer of the gut4, reduces the number of stools and helps protect against diaper rash, which can all help make baby more comfortable.5
What else can help soothe colic symptoms?
There are many reasons for a newborn’s tummy troubles. In addition to having gas-producing bacteria, the muscles they use to get the gas out aren’t strong yet. We can help them physically get the gas out until their muscles get strong and they can easily pass gas, usually between 2-3 months of age.
Tricks are to massage your baby’s tummy with your hand in a clockwise direction, do tummy time, or bicycle their legs while on their back. Swaddling, pacifiers, white noise and warm baths are also tricks that may help soothe a crying baby—sometimes a little guess and check can help figure out what your baby needs.
Remember: you are not alone
The constant crying can take a huge toll on parents who feel like they can’t console their baby. The lack of sleep sure doesn’t help, either. I always try to remind parents that this is a temporary issue, and crying itself won’t hurt your baby. If you’re feeling very frustrated, it’s ok to put the baby in a safe place and take a few moments to yourself.
There are also resources to help, including the Fussy Baby Site, and your pediatrician can examine your baby and provide more tailored advice. Even though colic is a phase, we are here to make that phase easier!
About the Author
Payal Adhikari, M.D., Pediatrician, Clinical Implementation Director
Dr. Adhikari is a board-certified pediatrician and responsible for educating physicians and health systems about Infinant Health’s scientific mission, helping them adopt advances like Evivo to protect the most precious patients. Prior to medical school, Dr. Adhikari was a strategic consultant in the Healthcare division of Huron Consulting Group and later became a pediatrician in Chicago, IL. In addition to seeing patients, Dr. Adhikari enjoys spending time with her husband and two kiddos.
- Frese, Steven A., et al. “Persistence of supplemented Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis EVC001 in breastfed infants.” MSphere 2.6 (2017): e00501-17.
- Casaburi, Giorgio, et al. “Metagenomic insights of the infant microbiome community structure and function across multiple sites in the United States.” Scientific Reports 11.1 (2021): 1472.
- Karav, Sercan, Giorgio Casaburi, and Steven A. Frese. “Reduced colonic mucin degradation in breastfed infants colonized by Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis EVC001.” FEBS open bio 8.10 (2018): 1649-1657.
- Dimitratos, S. M., et al. “Symptomatic relief from at-home use of activated Bifidobacterium infantis EVC001 probiotic in infants: Results from a consumer survey on the effects on diaper rash, colic symptoms, and sleep.” Beneficial Microbes 12.4 (2021): 333-340.