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Infant colic vs reflux explained

Infant Colic vs. Reflux: Symptoms, Causes, and Solutions

Parenthood is an incredible journey filled with joy and love, but it also comes with its fair share of challenges, especially when it comes to understanding and addressing your baby's discomfort. Two common concerns that parents often encounter during the early months of their infant's life are infant colic and reflux. In this blog, we'll explore the differences between these two conditions, their symptoms, causes, and offer some helpful solutions for both.

What is Infant Colic?

Infant colic is a term used to describe excessive, inconsolable crying in an otherwise healthy and well-fed baby. Colic typically starts in the first few weeks of life and may last until around three to four months of age, although it can vary from one baby to another.

Symptoms of Infant Colic

  1. Excessive Crying: Babies with colic often cry for three hours or more per day, three or more days a week, for at least three weeks.
  2. Fussiness: Colicky babies may appear fussy, irritable, and hard to comfort, especially in the late afternoon and evening.
  3. Clutching at the Abdomen: They may clench their fists, arch their back, and curl their legs towards their belly.

What is Infant Reflux?

Infant reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GER) or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), occurs when the contents of the stomach flow back into the esophagus. This can happen in infants because their lower esophageal sphincter (the muscle that keeps the stomach contents from flowing back) is not fully developed.

Symptoms of Infant Reflux

  1. Spitting Up: Frequent spitting up or vomiting after feeding is a common sign of reflux.
  2. Irritability: Reflux can cause discomfort and irritability in babies.
  3. Poor Weight Gain: Some babies with reflux may have trouble gaining weight.

Colic vs. Reflux: Key Differences

  1. Nature of Crying: Colic is characterized by intense, inconsolable crying, whereas reflux-related crying may be triggered by discomfort after feeding.

  2. Timing: Colic tends to occur at specific times of the day, often in the late afternoon or evening, whereas reflux symptoms can be present at any time, especially after feeding.

  3. Associated Symptoms: Colicky babies may clench their fists and curl their legs, while babies with reflux are more likely to spit up or vomit.

Causes of Infant Colic

The exact cause of colic remains unknown, but some contributing factors may include:

  1. Gastrointestinal Discomfort: Immature digestive systems in infants can lead to gas and discomfort.
  2. Sensory Overload: Some babies may be more sensitive to their environment or changes in routine.

Causes of Infant Reflux

The causes of infant reflux include:

  1. Immature Digestive System: As mentioned earlier, the lower esophageal sphincter in infants is not fully developed.
  2. Dietary Factors: Certain foods in the mother's diet (if breastfeeding) or the type of formula can exacerbate reflux.

Solutions for Infant Colic and Reflux

Infant Colic:

  1. Comfort Measures: Try swaddling, rocking, or using a pacifier to soothe your colicky baby.
  2. White Noise: Some infants find white noise or gentle lullabies calming.
  3. Gas Relief Drops: Consult your pediatrician about using gas relief drops if gas seems to be a contributing factor.

Infant Reflux:

  1. Feeding Techniques: Feed your baby in an upright position and hold them upright for 20-30 minutes after each feed.
  2. Smaller, Frequent Feedings: Smaller, more frequent feedings can help reduce the volume of stomach contents.
  3. Medication: In severe cases, your pediatrician may recommend medication to reduce stomach acid.


Infant colic and reflux can be challenging for both parents and babies, but understanding the differences between the two conditions and knowing how to manage them can make a significant difference in your baby's comfort and your peace of mind. Always consult with your pediatrician for a proper diagnosis and guidance on managing these conditions. With patience, love, and the right strategies, you can help your baby navigate these early challenges and enjoy the precious moments of parenthood.

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