Colic doesn’t cause ongoing problems with babies, study finds

how to understand a baby's cries

Parents of colicky babies are being reassured that the condition doesn’t cause ongoing behavioural problems with babies.

New research from Melbourne’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has found that the crying and stress related to colic is short-lived.

Reassurance for parents

Colic treatment found

Royal Children’s Hospital paediatrician Dr Georgie Bell said her study results are reassuring for families with colicky babies.

“This study confirms to parents that if their baby is crying a lot in the first three months of life, there will not be long-lasting impacts on their child’s behaviour or the wellbeing of the family when compared with babies without infant colic at two to three years of age.

“While it is no doubt a difficult time for parents, we can now reassure them that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that their baby will grow up to be a toddler without higher risk of behaviour problems than other children who did not have colic.”

What is colic?

Colic treated with probiotics

Colic is defined as excessive crying in a healthy baby that resolves after three months. One in five babies suffers from colic, which puts their mums at increased risk of post-natal depression. Dr Bell herself developed depression after the birth of her second child, who had colic.

“If someone had been able to tell me that things were going to get better, it would have made my experience different,” said Dr Bell.

While previous research has included babies whose crying has continued beyond 12 weeks, this is the first Australian study to focus solely on colic. Researchers tracked 99 infants with colic and 182 without and looked for differences in their behaviour once they became toddlers. They found that there was no difference in sleeping, feeding and temperament.

“This study confirms to parents that if their baby is crying a lot in the first three months of life, there will not be long-lasting impacts on their child’s behaviour or the wellbeing of the family when compared with babies without infant colic at two to three years of age,” Dr Bell said.

“While it is no doubt a difficult time for parents, we can now reassure them that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that their baby will grow up to be a toddler without higher risk of behaviour problems than other children who did not have colic.”

Co-author Dr Valerie Sung said the study also showed no difference in the mental health of parents of babies with colic, and those whose babies didn’t have the condition.

“What we can say now is that if the colic resolves within three months, your child’s behaviour and the well-being of your family should be no different at two or three years of age than for families whose baby who did not have colic,” Dr Sung said.


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