Colic is the medical term for excessive, frequent crying (more than three hours a day, at least three days a week for at least three weeks) in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy and well-fed. It can affect up to 3 in 10 babies. It usually starts in the first few weeks of life. In most cases, the intense crying occurs in the late afternoon or evening and usually lasts for several hours. Colic occurs equally in boys and girls, and in babies who are breast or bottle-fed.
If your baby has colic, they may appear to be in distress. However, the crying outbursts are not harmful and your baby will continue to feed and gain weight normally. There is no clear evidence that colic has any long-term effects on a baby’s health.
Despite a huge amount of research into the condition, the cause of colic is still not clear. A number of theories have been suggested including indigestion, trapped wind or a temporary gut sensitivity to certain proteins and sugars found in breast milk and formula milk, but there is little solid evidence to support these.
There is no proven cure for colic. It will get better on its own, usually by the age of 3 – 4 months, if not sooner.
Remember that there is nothing you have done to cause the colic.
Holding your baby in different positions during a crying episode may help to soothe them. Some babies cannot be soothed it is fine to place the baby lying in their cot/pram etc for short periods and take a 'time out' for you.
Sit your baby upright when feeding to reduce the amount of air they swallow.
If you are breastfeeding, reducing your intake of cow’s milk, dairy products, eggs, wheat, nuts and caffeine may help. Spicy foods and alcohol can aggravate colic. If there is no improvement after you have made dietary changes for a week, go back to your normal diet.
If you are bottle-feeding, using a fast flow teat can reduce the amount of air the baby swallows during feeding.
Always wind/burp your baby after feeds. Using product containing simethicone or dimethicone eg. Infacol, Dentinox can make it easier for your baby to get wind up.
Some babies with colic may be intolerant to lactose in their milk. Lactase drops, eg. Colief, reduce the amount of lactose in the milk by breaking it down. Only change to lactose-free baby food in consultation with your doctor.
Some babies find ‘white noise’ soothing. White noise is background, non-specific noise such as vacuum cleaners, washing machines etc. CD’s of white noise are also available.
Some babies with colic will settle when moving either in their pram or on car journeys.