What is Colic In Babies & How To Manage It?
Get tips for how you could make your baby more comfortable if they are showing signs of colic.
Colicky babies have seemingly never-ending episodes of inconsolable crying. No matter what you do, they don’t calm down – and it can be an incredibly stressful time for new parents.
The term colic comes from the Greek word kolikos meaning “suffering in the colon”. It affects around 20% of babies in the first year of life and usually resolves itself within 4 months.
How colic is diagnosed
Colic babies show bouts of recurrent and prolonged periods of crying especially late afternoon and evening that occur without any obvious cause and cannot be prevented or resolved by caregivers. Other symptoms may include:
- Drawing knees up to the chest;
- Arched back;
- Red-faced; and
- Episodes of bowel sounds.
Parents often mistake colic for general fussiness. Many babies are fussy – they need extra comfort, nursing and holding in the evening hours or when they are over-tired. Colicky babies are more than fussy – they appear to be in pain and are not comforted or relieved no matter what you try. They cry intensely and relentlessly.
If your baby is colicky and things do not seem to be improving by around three or four months, they may have food allergies or sensitivities, reflux or other issues. If you notice any of the below symptoms then it is a good idea to see your healthcare professional:
- Frequent wakeups with painful cries
- Poor weight gain
- Frequent respiratory or intestinal illness
- Straining, grimacing and drawing legs to chest with bowel movements
- Frequent vomiting and more intense crying post-feeds and when lying down
- Symptoms suggestive of allergies, such as rashes, diarrhoea, runny nose and wheezing
How to make a colicky baby more comfortable
It can be very stressful to watch your baby in pain. There are a number of things you can try to help soothe her and make her more comfortable which are outlined below, however it is important to remember that colicky symptoms often resolve themselves and are a normal part of the developing baby.
Things you can try to make a colicky baby more comfortable include:
- Smaller and more frequent feeds – an over-supply might be causing gas or belly pain.
- Use tummy time – the gentle pressure of lying on her belly could help to push out trapped gas.
- The ‘football hold’ – carry her face-down with her body on your forearm and her chin cradled in your elbow, which is similar to tummy time.
- The ‘colic curl’ position – place your baby’s head and back against your chest and encircle your arms under her bottom. Then, move your arms up gently to curl her into a ball.
- Warm water bottle – wrap a warm (not hot!) water bottle in a cloth nappy and gently place it on her tummy to help her relax.
- Warm bath – climb into a warm bath with your little one. It could help to soothe and relax both of you.
- Infant massage – gently rub her tummy in a clockwise motion and then pull your hands down the curve of the belly to relieve gas pressure.
- Bicycle baby’s legs – bicycling your baby’s legs in a circular motion can help to release gas trapped lower in their abdomen.
Look after yourself, too
Caring for a baby with colic can be exhausting. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help or, if you are alone and need a break, place her down in a safe space and walk away for a few minutes. You need to look after yourself, too.
And always seek medical advice if you are at all unsure about your baby’s crying. Our Careline team of midwives and dietitians are also available to talk through what your baby is experiencing and how you can help make your baby more comfortable. Call 1800 842 098 or get in touch with our team.
Check your baby’s symptoms with our Baby Symptom Checker tool.
Infant Colic Tips
What are the signs and symptoms of infant colic? Watch this video from the Nutricia Careline team to find out what to look out for and five things that may give your baby relief from infant colic.
Seven things I learnt from having a baby with colic
Seven top tips to help make your baby more comfortable and ease the stress of colic from Sue, a Nutricia Careline nutritionist.
By Sue, Nutricia Careline Nutritionist
At the Careline, we often speak to parents who are concerned that their baby may have colic. Watching your baby cry inconsolably for long periods of time and feeling like nothing you do helps comfort them is incredibly stressful for new parents.
When my son was a baby he also suffered from colic, so I know firsthand how stressful and exhausting it can be. Here are my top tips to help make your baby more comfortable and ease the stress of colic.
1. Keep your baby upright for feeds
A more upright feeding position can help. If you are bottle feeding, a specialised formula could make a difference and an anti-colic teat can help as it means less gulping or swallowing of air. I recommend talking to your doctor or pharmacist about options.
2. Skin-to-skin contact after feeds
Skin-to-skin contact with a parent after feeding and keeping your baby in an upright position can help to ease colic. It can also be a great way for your partner to bond with baby.
3. A good burping technique
Burping will help get rid of some of the air that your baby swallows while feeding. Try holding your baby against your shoulder or sit him or her upright (be sure to support baby’s neck and head). Then gently rub baby’s back and tummy, making sure all the wind is brought up.
4. Try a motorised swing or sling/front pack
I used a motorized swing for my son and also a sling/front pack to keep him snuggled on me. This meant he was upright whilst allowing me to be hands free.
5. Ask for, and accept, help
Ask for help from friends and family. If you can, get nanna or another family member to come and help at night to rock/walk the baby and give mum and dad a break.
6. Look after yourself and eat well
It’s important that you eat well to keep up your energy and improve your mood. Pre-prepare meals that can be reheated to save time at night. If you are breastfeeding, avoid too much spicy food, alcohol, tea, coffee and other caffeinated drinks. Your healthcare professional can advise you on your diet, or our team of dietitians and nutritionists at the Careline are also here to help.
7. Take some time out for yourself
Have a massage, sleep during the day, read a book or book in a babysitter so you can get out on date night with your partner.
If your baby shows signs of colic, seek support and talk to your healthcare professional. Our Careline team of midwives, dietitians and nutritionists are also here to support you. We can talk through what you are experiencing and provide practical advice to help make your baby more comfortable.
Call 1800 842 098 or get in touch via live chat or email. We’re always happy to help.
Want to know more? Call us on 1800 842 098 or Live Chat now.
Track your baby’s development
Get month-by-month advice on your baby’s development