Colic causes no long term issues for babies, study finds

Infant colic leads to no ongoing problems, new Australian study
Infant colic leads to no ongoing problems, new Australian study Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

If you've ever parented a colicky baby, you'll know just how stressful, exhausting and worrying it can be when your bub just won't stop crying. But the conclusions of a new Australian study should provide much needed reassurance to mums and dads concerned about the impact all that crying might have on their little ones in years to come.

In short: this too shall pass, and your babies will be okay.

The research, conducted by Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Melbourne, (MCRI) and published in the Journal of Pediatricsfound that colicky bubs, whose crying resolves within three months, have no ongoing behaviour problems.

"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," said lead author Dr Georgie Bell, who was also the mother of a colicky bub - and developed depression.

"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," Dr Bell said.

Affecting around 20 per cent of babies, official criteria defines colic as crying/fussing for three hours or more per day, for three days or more per week, for one week. It often occurs in the late afternoon and early evening, especially in babies between two weeks and four months.

But while having a colicky bub has been associated with short-term outcomes including post-natal depression, child abuse, family dysfunction and early weaning, its impact on later outcomes for children has been less clear.

To examine this link, researchers from MCRI and the Royal Children's Hospital, tracked a group of 99 infants with colic and 182 without. The team looked at the bubs' behaviour as toddlers - and found no differences in sleeping, feeding or temperament.

"This study demonstrates that infants with true colic, ie, with crying that self-resolves, do not experience adverse effects on child behaviour, regulatory abilities, temperament, or family functioning in toddlerhood," the authors write. "This information is helpful for exhausted parents of crying infants, who can be reassured that the crying and related stress will likely resolve and is short-lived."

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The research also uncovered good news about the later mental health of parents who had colicky little ones. According to co-author Dr Valerie Sung, there was no difference between the mental health of mums and dads whose babies had colic and those whose children did not, by the time their kids reached toddlerhood.

"What we can say now is that if the colic resolves within three months, your child's behaviour and the wellbeing 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.

Find more information on colic, how to manage it and when to seek help here:

If you need help urgently, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

You can also contact the PANDA Helpline on 1300 726 306, (Monday to Friday 9am - 7:30pm).