What are the Symptoms of Colic?

Some associated symptoms of colic may be clenching of the fists, arching of the back, or tensing of the abdomen. Bouts tend to come on suddenly and end suddenly, and the cry may sound more intense to parents. Colicky babies may be extremely difficult to console. If you suspect your baby is suffering from colic, compare your child’s symptoms with the list below. Our poll of thousands of parents illustrates the frequency of nine common signs in infants meeting at least two of the Wessel criteria for colic. Overall, 84% reported at least 5 of the signs below.

Symptom / SignFrequency
1. Cries vigorously for long periods, despite efforts to console*
2. Symptoms begin and end abruptly without warning
3. During episodes; baby arches back, pulls knees to chest, clenches fists, flails arms and legs
4. Baby experiences disrupted sleep patterns
5. Crying begins around the same time each day or night
6. Shows signs of gas such as; abdominal bloating or a hard distended stomach
7. Symptoms begin after meal times
8. Symptoms cease after a bowel movement or passing gas
9. Baby spits up frequently**

Notes: * Inconsolable crying is part of the Wessel definition of colic. Thus, all colicky infants fit this criteria. ** The fact that relatively few parents reported excessive spit-up, which is quite common in babies anyway, suggests that reflux is not a factor in most cases of colic.

Compare your child’s symptoms to the observations of other parents.

Take this quick colic symptom survey.
colic symptom survey

Parents may describe their baby’s cry as more piercing, painful or intense compared to his normal cry. Parents often think of colicky pain as an acute abdominal pain, but since colicky babies cannot describe exactly what distresses them, it is hard for parents to know the precise cause of their distress.

To compare your child’s symptoms to the observations of other parents or start a conversation, take our short colic symptom survey.