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How Do Babies Get Colic? (And Can Anything Be Done?)

Updated Jun 25, 2024

Reviewed By: Erin Black

Table Of Content

It’s 2 am, and your baby has been uncontrollably crying for six hours straight. You’ve tried everything to console them with no relief—white noise, changed diapers, nursed, rocked, bounced, and begged—but nothing works. 

Your baby’s piercing cries continue as you dissolve into an exhausted, defeated mess. And this isn’t the first time this has happened. If this scenario sounds painfully familiar, you are far from alone. 

Approximately 1 in 4 babies and parents experience the continuous crying spells of colic every year. However, the causes and solutions for this condition are still a mystery in pediatric medicine, leaving families feeling hopeless, dismissed, and desperate for answers.

Fortunately, new research is shedding light on the underlying causes of colic and providing a way to ease your baby’s suffering and your family’s exhaustion. By recognizing colic’s subtle warning signs, understanding the latest findings on its causes, and utilizing a gentle and effective approach called Neurologically-Focused Chiropractic Care, families all over the country are experiencing significant relief every day. 

This approach addresses the root causes where traditional medicine falls short and can lead to peace, better health, and developmental progress for your baby.

What is Colic in Babies?

Colic is defined as intense, inconsolable crying in an otherwise healthy baby that lasts over 3 hours a day, over three days per week, for at least three weeks. We now know that contrary to old thinking, colic is not “normal crying” that babies simply outgrow.

Instead, it indicates the nervous system and parasympathetic “rest and digest” capacities vital for activities like sleeping, eating, digesting, and self-soothing are under stress and not functioning properly. This distress manifests through excessive crying spells, difficulty feeding, sleep problems, tense abdomen, arching the back while crying, and an inability to find comfort.  

How Do Babies Get Colic?

Although standard medicine has not yet identified the causes of colic, recent studies suggest a correlation with subluxation; neurological dysfunction, imbalance, and interference that can be initially triggered like a high stress pregnancy or birth interventions that disrupt the delicate balance of your baby’s autonomic nervous system. 

At PX Docs, we refer to this as the “Perfect Storm.” It’s like a row of dominos, where one event triggers another and sets the stage for sympathetic dominance and dysautonomia, which are underlying components of colic. This “Perfect Storm” typically follows this course:

  • Maternal anxiety, trauma, or chronic stress during pregnancy can impact the baby’s developing brain and nervous system by transferring stress, cortisol, and other inflammatory factors through the placenta. 
  • Birth trauma resulting from interventions such as C-section delivery, vacuum/forceps extraction, or oxygen deprivation can also cause physical strain and misalignment in delicate neural tissues. The upper neck and brainstem housing the vagus nerve are particularly affected by such interventions.
  • Subluxations, which are misalignments, can develop due to tension and reduced motion that interfere with normal neurological communication. The upper neck region plays a crucial role in controlling digestion, respiration, heart function, and other automatic processes through the vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system. Additionally, the upper and mid thoracic regions are essential in regulating esophageal and stomach function, as well as breathing and oxygenation.
  • When subluxations occur, they can cause neurological dysfunction that disrupts essential systems, keeping them stuck in a perpetual state of “fight or flight” instead of in the mode that infants are supposed to be in, continual calm “rest, regulate, and digest” functioning. This can lead to impaired sleep, feeding coordination, absorption, elimination, and emotional regulation. As a result, colic and its accompanying symptoms can occur.
How Do Babies Get Colic? (And Can Anything Be Done?) | PX Docs

Maternal stress and birth trauma can contribute to the development of subluxations and dysautonomia, which can disrupt nervous system balance and the smooth operation of the vagus nerve. Babies who experience subluxations may struggle with activities that require a relaxed parasympathetic state, leading to fussiness and crying that can escalate into distress. 

This distress and tension that negatively impacts the colicky infant’s life then unfortunately is shared with the entire family. Parents and siblings alike can quickly become sleep deprived, exhausted, emotional, and dysregulated, which only continues the vicious cycle of stress and struggle for the whole family. This is why it’s so important that parents discover what’s really causing colic, and not simply be told to “wait it out” or let them cry it out. 

Gentle Chiropractic Restores Neurological Function and Baby Comfort

The good news for exhausted and concerned parents is that Neurologically-Focused Chiropractic Care offers a precise, non-invasive solution to release subluxation patterns and restore optimal neurological function. 

Our PX Docs Network specilizes in pinpointing areas of subluxation and neurological dysfunction in infants. We use a gentle physical exam along with advanced neuro-scanning technology called the INSiGHT Scans to identify these neurological stress patterns, often associated with colic. 

From there, we’re able to gently adjust and relieve the subluxations and tension causing discomfort in infants. As a result, you often witness immediate relaxation, unwinding, and often sleep in the infant.

Parents often notice improvements within just a few visits, reporting better sleep, settled digestive function, increased alertness, less intense reactions to stimuli, and happier baby demeanors. The earlier care is initiated, the faster the progress unfolds.

Don’t Lose Hope – There Are Answers + Drug-Free Options 

If you are feeling exhausted and emotionally drained after months of sleepless nights and trying to soothe a crying, distressed baby, please know that there is help available. You deserve more than just misguided communication that your baby will eventually grow out of it. Long-term relief is possible by identifying and addressing the underlying causes of colic.

There are compassionate doctors who are specially trained to help identify the neurological factors behind colic and to gently restore your baby’s nervous system balance and comfort.

Visit the PX Docs Directory to find a Neurologically-Focused Pediatric Chiropractor near you. Schedule an initial consultation where our doctors can conduct a thorough assessment, advise what types of chiropractic techniques are right for your child, and outline a customized plan to meet their needs. 

PX Docs has established sourcing guidelines and relies on relevant, and credible sources for the data, facts, and expert insights and analysis we reference. You can learn more about our mission, ethics, and how we cite sources in our editorial policy.

Latest Articles

Indrio F, Dargenio VN, Francavilla R, Szajewska H, Vandenplas Y. Infantile Colic and Long-Term Outcomes in Childhood: A Narrative Synthesis of the Evidence. Nutrients. 2023 Jan 25;15(3):615. doi: 10.3390/nu15030615. PMID: 36771322; PMCID: PMC9921915.

Holm LV, Jarbøl DE, Christensen HW, Søndergaard J, Hestbæk L. The effect of chiropractic care on infantile colic: results from a single-blind randomised controlled trial. Chiropr Man Therap. 2021 Apr 19;29(1):15. doi: 10.1186/s12998-021-00371-8. PMID: 33874955; PMCID: PMC8054384.

Coussons-Read ME. Effects of prenatal stress on pregnancy and human development: mechanisms and pathways. Obstet Med. 2013 Jun;6(2):52-57. doi: 10.1177/1753495X12473751. Epub 2013 May 3. PMID: 27757157; PMCID: PMC5052760.

Cerritelli F, Frasch MG, Antonelli MC, Viglione C, Vecchi S, Chiera M, Manzotti A. A Review on the Vagus Nerve and Autonomic Nervous System During Fetal Development: Searching for Critical Windows. Front Neurosci. 2021 Sep 20;15:721605. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2021.721605. PMID: 34616274; PMCID: PMC8488382.

Kheir AE. Infantile colic, facts and fiction. Ital J Pediatr. 2012 Jul 23;38:34. doi: 10.1186/1824-7288-38-34. Retraction in: Ital J Pediatr. 2014;40(1):9. PMID: 22823993; PMCID: PMC3411470.

Lucassen P. Colic in infants. BMJ Clin Evid. 2015 Aug 11;2015:0309. PMID: 26581647; PMCID: PMC4531337.

Andrea J. Hipperson, Chiropractic management of infantile colic, Clinical Chiropractic, Volume 7, Issue 4, 2004, Pages 180-186, ISSN 1479-2354

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