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PLAYING: What is Colic in Babies?

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What is Colic in Babies?

Wondering how to help your colicky baby? Learn more about baby colic and get tips on how to soothe colic symptoms here.  

5 mins to read Dec 14, 2023

What is colic?

Colic in your newborn is an unexplainable unsettled period where your baby is crying for a long time, sometimes for hours, and is inconsolable. The true definition is crying ≥3 hours per day, on ≥3 days per week for ≥1 week. 

Your doctor will be able to rule out any other cause of the crying before diagnosing baby colic, which will give you reassurance and support that your baby is otherwise growing healthily.

How is colic diagnosed? 

The difficulty in diagnosing colic is that it’s relatively ‘normal’ for babies to fuss and cry – after all it’s one of their main ways to communicate with us. It’s quite important that you don’t self-diagnose colic. You should always see a doctor upfront if your baby is crying for long periods of time that can’t be explained.  From there, your doctor will be able to rule out any serious conditions or situations which need medical attention and provide advice. 

How common is colic? 

According to statistics, up to 1 in 5 babies (20%), both breastfed and bottle fed, between the ages of two weeks and six months suffer from infant colic. 

What causes colic in babies?

There can be several causes of crying but when there is no obvious cause, and no failure to thrive, fever or illness, the inconsolable periods of crying are labelled colic. Possible causes of colic in babies may include:

  • An immature nervous and digestive system,
  • Parents’ anxiety perceived by the baby,
  • Overfeeding,
  • Food intolerance or allergy,
  • An unbalanced microflora,
  • Or overly frequent changes in infant formula.


Signs of colic in babies

Simply put, long periods of unexplained crying and fussiness are the primary colic symptoms in babies, and feel beyond what you would consider to be ‘normal’. After checking with your doctor that what your baby is experiencing is colic, trust their support, and lean on family and friends, to help you get through this challenging time.

Signs of colic in babies can start in the first few weeks of life and last until around 6 months of age.  However, every baby is different and it’s important to continue to monitor your baby and seek healthcare professional advice if you are concerned.

Behavioural signs of colic

  • Your baby is irritable and is inconsolable and unhappy;
  • Your adorable little baby, who up until now has amazed you with their calm nature and regular growth, starts to cry repeatedly throughout the day and several times during the night;
  • This unhappiness is causing your baby to produce high-pitched screaming or prolonged crying episodes

Physical signs of colic

Prolonged crying can come with some side-effects such as:

  • Frowning and grimacing
  • Reddening of the face
  • The baby may pull up their legs, suggesting stomach or colic pains
  • Passing wind or faeces (poo) around the time the crying stops may just be coincidental

Sleep patterns

Understandably, sleep patterns can be majorly disturbed for both you and your baby and everyone else in the house. 

Combined with your tiredness, you are finding it harder and harder to cope with this sudden change in attitude. In a word, you are scared! This is normal. Be sure to have them checked with your healthcare professional, what your baby is experiencing may be colic.


How is colic treated?

Once your doctor diagnoses colic, treatment is naturally the next question. As the cause is not quite clear, the treatment path is also not straightforward. For some, apart from extra comforting that your little one will appreciate, it may be a case of waiting for your little one to grow out of it over time. There are promising results with specific probiotics that have shown to reduce crying time in colicky infants, which your healthcare professional can guide you on. 


How can you soothe a baby with colic?

There is nothing we want more than a happy baby, so when you have a colic baby it can be really hard to bear.  Here are some tips you can use to help your baby.

  • Talk to your doctor about possible treatment options, including specific probiotics that may help ease the crying in colicky infants.
  • Continue breastfeeding, seek help from your health professional if needed.
  • If you are bottle-feeding, limit air intake via the teat as much as possible – try an anti-reflux system and make sure you burp your baby properly.
  • Don’t change infant formula without seeking the advice of a healthcare professional and make sure you make sure you follow the directions on pack and use the correct scoop and quantities of powder and water.
  • Massage your baby’s stomach gently in a clockwise direction, place a warm heat-pack wrapped in a towel on their tummy (warmth is excellent for relieving pain);
  • Give your baby a warm bath.
  • Some babies find sucking calming, and you may find feeding your baby more frequently may help. Just be aware that over-feeding may result in tummy discomfort which won’t ease the crying.
  • Gentle rocking or holding your baby in your arms or in a baby carrier or sling.

Be sure to get the support you need. Remaining calm and soothing your baby the best way you can, will mean more than you think: they’ll feel your love and comfort come through in your gentle touch.

Read more tips on settling a crying baby here.


How can you manage your emotions when managing colic in babies?

Managing stress when dealing with a colicky baby can be challenging, but it is essential for parents to prioritise their own well-being also. 

  • Remember that colic is temporary: Understanding that colic is a phase that will eventually pass can help parents stay positive and resilient during challenging times.
  • Take breaks and seek support: Taking short breaks from caregiving responsibilities and seeking support from family and friends can provide much-needed relief and help parents recharge.
  • Engage in stress-reducing activities: Engaging in activities such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies can help parents relax and reduce stress levels. Finding time for self-care is essential for maintaining emotional well-being.
  • Seek professional advice: Consulting a paediatrician or joining support groups can offer valuable guidance and reassurance. Professionals can provide helpful strategies and tips for managing colic and offer support during this challenging period

Read more tips on adjusting to parenthood here.