Colic

Colic is when a baby cries inconsolably for no clear reason. Crying is often in the afternoon or early evening. It often happens at the same time each day. It can start as early as two weeks and often stops by five months of age. The cause is not known. It is thought to be due to a young digestive system.

It is treated by reducing stimulation and changing diet and feeding techniques.

Natural Therapies

Natural treatments may help to soothe their babies.

Likely Effective

Possibly Effective

Unlikely to Be Effective

  • Gripe water (herbal extracts, bicarbonates, and sugar)C3—see safety concerns below
  • Herbs (except fennel), such as balm mint, chamomile, lemon balm C2
  • Japanese star anise tea C1 —see safety concerns below
  • Mixed herbal tea C2

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Herbs and Supplements to Be Used With Caution

Talk to your doctor about all herbs or supplements your baby is taking. Some may get in the way of your baby’s treatment plan or other health problems. Some supplements listed here have certain concerns. For example:

  • Gripe water may result in side effects, such as stomach upset or allergic reaction.
  • Herbal products (such as fennel) in infants raise concerns over side effects, alcohol content, and lack of product oversight.
  • Japanese star anise is poisonous and should not be used in infants. Side effects can be vomiting, irritability, and seizures.

References

A. Acupuncture

A1. Landgren K, Kvorning N, et al. Acupuncture reduces crying in infants with infantile colic: a randomised, controlled, blind clinical study. Acupunct Med. 2010 Dec;28(4):174-179.

A2. Skjeie H, Skonnord T, et al. Acupuncture for infantile colic: a blinding-validated, randomized controlled multicentre trial in general practice. Scand J Prim Health Care. 2013 Dec;31(4):190-196.

A3. Landgren K, Hallström I. Effect of minimal acupuncture for infantile colic: a multicentre, three-armed, single-blind, randomised controlled trial (ACU-COL). Acupunct Med. 2017 Jun;35(3):171-179

B. Chiropractic

B1. Perry R, Hunt K, et al. Nutritional supplements and other complementary medicines for infantile colic: a systematic review. Pediatrics. 2011 Apr;127(4):720-733.

B2. Dobson D, Lucassen PL, et al. Manipulative therapies for infantile colic. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Dec 12;12:CD004796.

C. Herbs

C1. Ize-Ludlow D, Ragone S, et al. Chemical composition of Chinese star anise (illicium verum) and neurotoxicity in infants. JAMA. 2004 Feb 4;291(5):562-563.

C2. Perry R, Hunt K, et al. Nutritional supplements and other complementary medicines for infantile colic: a systematic review. Pediatrics. 2011 Apr;127(4):720-733.

C3. Jain K, Gunasekaran D, et al. Gripe water administration in infants 1-6 months of age—a cross-sectional study. J Clin Diagn Res. 2015 Nov;9(11):SC06-8.

C4. Harb T, Matsuyama M, et al. Infant colic—what works: a systematic review of interventions for breast-fed infants. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2016 May;62(5):668-686.

D. Probiotics

D1. Anabrees J, Indrio F, et al. Probiotics for infantile colic: a systematic review. BMC Pediatr. 2013 Nov 15;13:186.

D2. Sung V, Collett S, et al. Probiotics to prevent or treat excessive infant crying: systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatr. 2013 Dec;167(12):1150-1157.

D3. Sung V, Hiscock H, et al. Treating infantile colic with the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri: double blind, placebo controlled randomised trial. BMJ. 2014 Apr 1;348:g2107.

D4. Chau K, Lau E, et al. Probiotics for infantile colic: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial investigating Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938. J Pediatr. 2015 Jan;166(1):74-78.

D5. Harb T, Matsuyama M, et al. Infant colic—what works: a systematic review of interventions for breast-fed infants. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2016 May;62(5):668-686.

D6. Schreck Bird A, Gregory PJ, et al. Probiotics for the treatment of infantile colic: a systematic review. J Pharm Pract. 2017 Jun;30(3):366-374.

Last reviewed March 2019 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Richard Glickman-Simon, MD
Last Updated: 3/2/2019

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