A mother calming her baby and holding it in her arms.

baby care & hygiene

Baby colic

How to recognize it and what you can do about it

When babies cry frequently, one term quickly comes to mind that many people know: “three-month colic”. Although everyone seems to know something about it, colic is not always easy to treat because it is not an easily localized or diagnosable disease. What do we really know about three-month colic? Where does it come from and, most importantly, how can you help your baby with tummy ache?

What is three-month baby colic? 

Around 80 percent of infants often suffer from bloating and flatulence in the first three months of life. In around 10-15 percent of children, this can also lead to cramp-like, extremely severe stomach pains. If other diseases are excluded, we refer to this as three-month colic.

How to recognize three-month colic:

  • By the duration and frequency of the screaming periods: more than 3 hours per day, more than 3 times per week for a total of more than 3 weeks (this is the definition of a “screaming baby” according to Morris Wessel)
  • The baby is almost impossible to calm
  • Typical time is late afternoon as well as often after meals
  • Accompanying symptoms during the screaming period can be paleness, sweating, tightening of the legs, flatulence or improvement after the wind has gone

Colic or increased crying usually begins in the first weeks of life and decreases as the baby gets older. 

Reasons for three-month colic or screaming attacks

In 95% of cases, there is no physical cause for screaming. Theories range from general hypersensitivity to digestive disorders such as increased bowel movements or too little bowel activity. The recommendation is to first rule out organic causes before making a diagnosis of “three-month colic”.

5 physical causes of colic:

  • Cow’s milk allergy
  •  Lactose intolerance 
  • Reflux
  • Infections 
  • Injuries 

In these cases, you should definitely discuss further treatment with your doctor.

Mother gently massaging baby belly

Tips for colic relief

Many parents despair when their baby screams continuously. After all, it is not just heartbreaking, but also strains their own nerves. The following points can be helpful:

  • A relaxed environment (e.g. dim the lights) so that your baby can rest more easily
  • A well-structured day with fixed sleeping and eating times
  • A lot of carrying on the body (ideally using a sling or an ergonomic carrying aid)
  • Introduce and maintain a sleep ritual 
  • Soothing singing or baby massage: this can be done daily from the 4th week. Using a little oil, make “stroking” movements – e.g. circling around the navel or with the thumbs away from the navel. This is best done an hour before or after a meal or after a bath. Have a midwife for example show you the correct movements.
  • In any case, stay with your baby when he or she is screaming.
  • If you feel that it is getting too much for you, get help and professional advice from your doctor.
  • If you are not breastfeeding, there are special anti-colic bottles that prevent too much air from being swallowed. Almost 80% of the mothers who participated in a study with MAM anti-colic bottles confirmed an improvement or reduction in screaming and abdominal cramps.

If there are screaming clinics in your area, they are the perfect place to go. They are specialized in dealing with screaming babies and are thus able to offer professional help and support to stressed parents.

But you can also get advice from pediatricians in this difficult situation. It is important to never, ever shake the child, because an infant’s throat/neck area and brain are extremely sensitive and, in the worst case, this can lead to a brain hemorrhage.

The crying is not an accusation or a sign of parent failure – your baby is simply extremely sensitive and needs time to get used to the circumstances, physical processes and environment outside the safe, dark, quiet tummy. Give him or her the time and endure the phase with patience. After a few weeks at most, you will be presented with a happy, loving smile.

Photos: Shutterstock


Pädiatrie und Pädologie. Österreichische Zeitschrift für Kinder- und Jugendheilkunde: Gastroösophagealer Reflux und Säuglingskolik in der pädiatrischen Praxis. Dezember 2014. Nr. 06. S. 38-40

Gastroösophagealer Reflux und Säuglings in der pädiatrischen Praxis, ÖGKJ Pädiatrietage 2014, Pädiatrie & Pädologie 6/2014

Reduction of abdominal colic in infants by using bottom ventilated bottles, B. Lehner, A. Woppmann, R. Kerbl 

R. Kerbl, Säuglingskoliken („Colicky infants”), Gaissacher Ärzte-Journal, 19/2014, 14-17, 2014