Caring for a baby with colic

Colic in babies

If a baby has colic, they’ll cry and fret inconsolably for several hours or more at a time, without an obvious reason.

Colic begins around two weeks of age and most babies grow out of it by 16 weeks.

They may clench their fists and draw their legs up to their tummies. The colic often occurs in the late afternoon or early evening and usually will happen at the same time of day or night. Sometimes the colic may end with the passing of a bowel motion or gas, or the child may simply cry him or herself to sleep.

The cause of colic is unknown but it is not considered to be harmful. While looking after a baby with colic can be tiring and stressful, there are some tips you can try:

  • Hold your baby upright during feeds and burp him or her afterwards.
  • If you breastfeed and your baby seems worse after you’ve eaten certain foods, or there is a family history of food allergies, consider avoiding these foods for a couple of weeks to see if the colic improves.
  • If your baby is bottle-fed, consider changing the type of bottle or formula you use. Discuss alternative formula options with your doctor or Plunket nurse.
  • Hold your baby during crying episodes. Play soothing music or white noise and keep the lights dimmed.
  • Try gentle swaying or pushing your baby in a pram. Use a front pack or sling which allows you to carry your baby while you get on with some activities.

Looking after yourself as well

If you’re tired, it seems like the colic is worse. Here’s what you can do for yourself:

  • Eat a nourishing snack before an anticipated crying episode. Drink plenty of water.
  • Ask for and accept offers of help – caring for a baby with colic is not a one-person job.
  • Keep in contact with your doctor, practice nurse or Plunket nurse (PlunketLine 0800 933 922) and follow their recommendations.

Your Life Pharmacist can also offer advice and will be happy to discuss colic with you.


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