What Causes Colic? Learn 8 Possible Causes of Infant Colic

  • milk protein allergy
  • lactose intolerance
  • food sensitivities
  • fourth trimester theory
  • external environment
  • bacterial imbalance
  • trapped gas
  • ger

Click on each number for a more in-depth analysis of each cause.

While there are many theories about colic, there is no single consistent cause that experts all agree upon. The interactive chart above illustrates eight possible causes. A lot of evidence suggests that colic may be caused in different ways in different babies. There appear to be several contributing factors that, when occurring in combination, are likely to result in colic pain and discomfort:

  • Newborns have an immature digestive system that has never processed food. The gastrointestinal system is literally just learning to function. Muscles that support digestion have not developed the proper rhythm for moving food efficiently thought the digestive tract. Additionally, newborns lack the benevolent bacterial flora (probiotics) that develop over time to aid digestion. A more mature gut may explain why infants tend to outgrow colic symptoms by 6 months of age.
  • A mother may notice that certain foods make her baby more fussy. For example, trace elements of cow’s milk protein, onions, cruciferous vegetables, or chocolate may be passed via breast milk to baby and cause gas and bloating. In those cases, keeping a food log and trying an elimination diet may help.
  • Gastro-esophageal Reflux (GER)Infants often swallow air while feeding or during strenuous crying, which increases gas and bloating, further adding to their discomfort.
  • Since infants’ nervous systems are so immature, it is possible for them to get overloaded with unfamiliar sights and sounds. Infants that are easily overloaded often experience more severe colic, fussiness, and difficulty sleeping later in the day or at night. In general, the more activity (errands, visitors, television, phones, etc.) in a baby’s day, the higher the chances of baby becoming colicky and fussy.