Colic in infants causes one in six families (17%) with children to consult a health professional. One systematic review of 15 community-based studies found a wide variation in prevalence, which depended on study design and method of recording.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical question: What are the effects of treatments for colic in infants? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to September 2009 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically, please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
We found 27 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
In this systematic review we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: advice to increase carrying, advice to reduce stimulation, casein hydrolysate milk, cranial osteopathy, crib vibrator device, focused counselling, gripe water, infant massage, low-lactose milk, simethicone, soya-based infant feeds, spinal manipulation, and whey hydrolysate milk.
Colic in infants is defined as excessive crying in an otherwise healthy and thriving baby. The crying typically starts in the first few weeks of life and ends by age 4 to 5 months.
It causes one in six families with children to consult a health professional.
We found insufficient RCT evidence to judge whether replacing cows' milk or breast milk with casein hydrolysate milk,
soya-based infant feeds, or whey hydrolysate formula is effective in reducing crying time.
Breastfeeding mothers should generally be encouraged to continue breastfeeding.Soya milk is associated with possible long-term harmful effects on reproductive health.
The RCTs examining the effects of reducing stimulation (by not patting, lifting, or jiggling the baby, or by reducing auditory stimulation), crib vibration,
focused counselling, or spinal manipulation were too small for us to draw reliable conclusions.
We found no good RCT evidence assessing cranial osteopathy or gripe water for treating colic in infants.
Despite a lack of evidence from well-conducted trials, gripe water is commonly used by parents for their colicky infants.
Increasing the time spent carrying the infant (by at least 3 hours) does not seem to reduce the time spent crying, and may increase anxiety and stress in the parents.
RCTs identified assessing the effects of simethicone are of insufficient quality to draw reliable conclusions on the effectiveness of simethicone in treating colic.