Understanding colic

Babies cry for many reasons but crying can also be a symptom of colic. Colic is when a baby cries for longer than three hours every day for more than three days a week. It is the extreme end of normal crying behaviour. The condition is harmless, though it can be very distressing for parents or carers. The cause is not known, but there are ways to help calm a baby down.

Hopefully these tips will help you get through this difficult time.


Remember: Babies cry for many reasons – never assume that your baby's crying is always colic, check for other reasons too.


The symptoms of colic:


  • Crying that increases from 2 - 3 weeks of age, often starting in the early or late evening
  • Crying that is intermittent, lasting for longer and longer periods as the baby reaches 3 - 4 weeks by which time a pattern has emerged eg starts at 18:00 and lasts until 23:00
  • Your baby's crying is high pitched (the pain cry)
  • Your baby draws his legs up to his tummy in sudden quick bursts
  • Your baby becomes tense and stiff
  • Their tummy may be swollen and they may not like to be touched in that area
  • Crying may be calmed by picking up, feeding, and rocking but only for short periods and nothing seems to "work" for long
  • Sometimes you cannot find anything that will comfort your baby
  • In between the crying sessions, your baby seems to be fine, settled, smiling, feeding well and looks fit and well


Looking after yourself

This can be a very stressful time for you - remember to look after yourself:


  • Catch up on sleep whenever you can as sleep deprivation is the result of sleepless nights
  • During the day take a twenty minute nap as soon as your baby drops off to sleep
  • Naps will give you several hours of the patience that you might need later in the evening (to comfort your baby)
  • Treat yourself to a massage, reflexology treatment or something that will help you regain some balance / relaxation in your life
  • Check you are eating properly
  • Listen to your body and give it what it lacks - extra vitamins, more fluids etc
  • Get help – do not think that you have to be super-human, ask friends and family for help
  • It is human nature to get pleasure from helping, let people share the good and the bad times


Reducing irritants or allergies

If breastfeeding, change anything which you believe might be affecting your baby:


  • spicy foods, onions, garlic
  • sugar, orange juice and citrus fruits, bananas, grapes
  • dairy produce, chocolate
  • caffeine
  • gas producing vegetables or beans


Some mothers find that chamomile, dill or fennel teas help them, whilst others have found that New Era Tissue Salts (calcium phosphate and magnesium) have stopped them feeling exhausted and drained.

If giving solids, check for animal product intolerance or wheat allergy. (If wheat intolerance suspected, remember not to use wheat germ oil when massaging).

Colicky symptoms occur to babies throughout the world and in all cultures, it is not your fault. Your baby may have an immature digestive system. We all have our specific areas in our bodies where we suffer vulnerability.

If you feel you are losing control give your baby to someone who is calmer for a while. You must remember that everyone has a breaking point, (and by reaching that point) this does not mean that you are a bad parent. Recognise your own point of vulnerability and act on it.


What you can do to help:


  • Listen to your baby
  • Hear their cries
  • Tell them that you are there for them
  • Say "I love you and I want to help you."

Sometimes babies (all of us) need to cry to release built up tensions. Support them in times of need. You cannot spoil your child by holding or soothing.


Seek help

  • Seek advice from a member of the community team, your Health Visitors or a doctor if you think that your baby is unwell
  • Many mothers also visit homeopaths, cranial Osteopaths or other Health Professionals
  • Mothers have reported relief for both colic and teething with homeopathic chamomilla teething granules
  • Correct Positioning

Use of the correct positioning of your baby during and after feeding may help prevent excessive wind and provide relief. If your baby is slouched or horizontal during feeds, it may cause wind build-up in the digestive system.



Try walking about with your baby's head cradled and facing out from the crook in your left arm; your right arm supporting his tummy from beneath the legs. With gentle squeezes of the tummy every now and then, you may feel the abdomen soften and relax.


Warm towel

Put a warm towel over your lap and place your baby, tummy down, on the towel and gently rock or jog on your knees
Laying your baby on his tummy (when awake) will help stretch out and relax this area


A warm bath

A warm bath may help relax and warm tense muscles. Use the bath for pleasure and not for busy washing procedures.



Some babies are very sensitive and seem to be upset with the big, bright busy world. Try reducing too much environmental stimulation for a week or so:


  • Reduce noise or light
  • Reduce the number of visitors you have
  • Reduce the number of outings you and your baby have
  • Try taking away stimulating mobiles from the cot



  • Try to understand the different types of crying and discuss it with somebody whose opinion you trust
  • Sharing a problem can trigger a new perspective. (See articles by Vimala McClure Schneider on crying and listening to babies)
  • When you feel more confident about reading your baby's cries, you will be better able to cope with them appropriately
  • You will also find that you are less intimidated by all of the (often-well meaning) conflicting advice given at a time when you feel most vulnerable and can cause friction amongst family and friends


Touch and relaxation techniques

  • Check your own breathing. Take some deep, slow, full breaths
  • Think of a pleasant colour you would want to transfer to your baby to help her
  • Take the baby's legs gently in your hands. Feel a heavy relaxation in your touch. Gently and slowly jiggle the legs, repeating in a soft voice “relax" - use the same tone each time you say it.
  • As you feel the baby relax in any way give them some positive feedback saying “wonderful you relaxed your legs"
  • Smile. Show your baby you are pleased that they are relaxing
  • Some babies will relax better if you start on their back first



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