Colic Symptoms Explained

Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on May 31, 2021

All babies cry. That's how your baby tells you they are hungry, wet, or tired. So how can you tell when their tears are normal or if they may be from colic? Here are some clues.

Don't be surprised if your newborn cries a lot. During their first 3 months of life, babies can cry for up to 2 hours a day.

If your baby has colic, though, they are more likely to:

  • Cry for what seems like no reason -- even when they don't need to eat or have their diaper changed
  • Start to cry in the evening, or at the same time every day
  • Cry for 3 or more hours each day, more than 3 days a week, for at least 3 weeks
  • Make sounds that are more intense than normal -- more like a high-pitched scream than a cry
  • Not be soothed, even when you feed or rock them

Your colicky baby may also:

  • Clench their fists
  • Bend their arms and legs toward their belly
  • Have a bloated tummy
  • Have a red, flushed face when they cry
  • Pass gas while they shed tears, often because they have swallowed air
  • Tighten their stomach muscles

The doctor may be able to tell if your baby has colic from their symptoms. You can help. Over a few days, write down:

  • When your baby cries and for how long
  • What the cry sounds like. Is it high-pitched or louder than usual?
  • What seems to make them fussy
  • What, if anything, works to calm them down
  • How often and what your baby eats
  • When your baby poops, and what the stools look like (big or small, loose, or hard)

The doctor will likely do an exam to check if your baby is fussy for other reasons, such as:

  • Food allergies or sensitivities to something in your diet, if you breastfeed
  • Discomfort, such as if they are too hot or too cold
  • Hunger or weakness
  • Pain from an illness or injury
  • Reflux

If your baby doesn’t gain weight or loses weight, they may have another health problem, so it’s best to call their doctor.

Also call the doctor if they:

  • Can't be soothed at all, even for a few minutes
  • Doesn't suck strongly at the bottle or your breast
  • Doesn't like to be held or touched
  • Has an odd cry or sounds like they are in pain
  • Has diarrhea or blood in their stool
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Is less alert or sleepier than usual
  • Eats less than usual
  • Runs a fever of 100.4 degrees or more
  • Throws up
  • Might be sick or injured
  • Has fewer wet diapers

Don’t wait to call the doctor if you're at your wit’s end, either. The doctor can help you manage the colic, and that will lower your stress.

Show Sources


UpToDate: "Patient information: Colic (excessive crying) in infants (Beyond the Basics)."

Cleveland Clinic: "Colic."

Nemours Foundation: "Your Colicky Baby."

Roberts, D. American Family Physician, August 2004.

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