A parent’s guide to infant colic

Two crying babies

Colic is the term used to describe excessive crying in babies who otherwise seem to be healthy and having their needs met.

If your baby cries frequently and is generally fussy and unsettled, she might be one of the one in five infants who suffer from this common-yet-distressing condition.

Colic occurs in both breastfed and formula fed babies and is common across varied cultures.

Colic can occur from when a baby is just a few weeks old and usually disappears between four and six months of age.

Colic symptoms

Signs and symptoms of colic in a baby include:

  • Bouts of crying which can get worse at night and last for several hours.
  • Clenched fists, drawing knees up to tummy, arching back and/or having a red, distressed face.
  • Fussing at the breast or with the bottle when being fed.
  • General unhappiness and grizzling for extended periods of time.

Causes of colic

The jury is still out on exactly what causes colic, but medical professionals have suggested a few factors may be to blame, including indigestion, wind and gut sensitivity.

How to treat colic

There’s a few tried and true approaches you can try to make life with a colicky baby less stressful and help ease your baby’s discomfort:

Comfort – Check your baby to make sure they are as comfortable as possible in a clean, nicely fitting nappy and clothing to suit the temperature and weather.
Hunger – Offer your baby a feed, in case they need a top-up.
Soothing – Try a dummy or a comfort breast-feed to help soothe your little one.
Cuddling – Sometimes nothing but a cuddle will do.
Technique – Hold your baby as upright as possible when feeding and burp them after each feed.
Music – Try some gentle music, in case that helps to settle your baby down.
Motion – Rock your baby, pop them in a sling or put them in the stroller and get moving. Sometimes motion will settle a colicky infant.
Bath – A change of scene can help and a warm bath can ease a sore tummy (and your nerves.)
Routine – Develop a routine to help your baby understand and anticipate the rhythm of the day.
Massage – Baby massage can ease a fractious infant. Chat to your maternal child health nurse about massage techniques.
Support – Colicky babies are exhausting, ensure you ask for support from friends and family and talk to your GP or baby nurse for further advice.

Underlying condition?

Sometimes the symptoms of colic are actually symptoms of another underlying condition. If your baby is constantly crying and you are concerned, trust your instincts and head to your GP for further advice.

Don’t blame yourself

Some parents feel their baby’s colic must be their fault, but even the most experienced and capable parents have colicky babies. Don’t blame yourself for your baby’s distress. Do your best to keep them happy and comfortable and seek further advice if you’re finding the pressures of colic are beginning to wear you down. Help truly is at hand and you don’t have to go it alone.

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