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Coping with colic

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Need a hand?


For help and support Cry-sis is a charity that offers assistance to families with excessively crying, sleepless and demanding babies.

Their helpline is open 9am-10pm, all week long – 08451 228 669.

With any luck, your baby won’t suffer from colic. But if they do, here are some top tips on how to cope with colic.

What is colic?

The NHS says colic is “excessive, frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy and well fed”.

Symptoms tend to appear within the first two to three weeks of a baby’s life, peak at three months, and disappear over the next two months. No one really knows what causes it, but it affects roughly one in five babies.

How do I recognise colic?

  • Your baby cries loudly several times a day, a few times a week for three weeks or longer and refuses to be comforted by their favourite things
  • The crying is intense and strong and your baby’s face is red
  • It happens most often in late afternoon or evening and may include high-pitched screaming
  • He may clench his fists, draw up his knees or arch his back.

How can I help my colicky baby?

Because the cause of colic isn’t fully understood, there is no ‘cure’. But see your GP to check it’s nothing more serious, and to rule out other conditions that might be upsetting your baby, such as eczema or gastro-oesophageal reflux.

Some colic medicines may help as they ease wind pains. You may also be able to soothe your baby by other methods:

  • Gentle massage across the back and tummy
  • Avoiding caffeine if breastfeeding; spices and alcohol in breast milk can also trigger colic
  • Anti-colic teats if bottle-feeding
  • Letting them suck a teat or dummy
  • Hypoallergenic varieties if formula-feeding
  • Walking or dancing with your baby – the movement may help
  • Bathing them in warm water.

Is it something serious?

  • Call your GP immediately if your baby has any of the following symptoms:
  • A weak, high-pitched continuous cry
  • Seems floppy when picked up
  • Takes less than a third of their usual feed, passes much less urine than usual, vomits green fluid, or there’s blood in their poo
  • A temperature of 38ºC (100.4ºF) or above if they are less than three months of age, or 39ºC (102.2ºF) or above if they are three to six months old
  • A bulging fontanelle (the soft spot at the top of a baby’s head)
  • A fit (seizure)
  • Turns blue, blotchy or very pale
  • A stiff neck
  • Breathing problems, such as breathing quickly or grunting
  • A spotty, purple-red rash anywhere on their body (this could be a sign of meningitis).

Look after yourself

A constantly crying baby is upsetting and exhausting, so don’t forget to take care of yourself.

  • First, be reassured that it’s not your fault. Colic doesn’t mean your baby’s unwell, rejecting you or not being looked after properly
  • Get as much rest as you can: try to nap when your baby sleeps
  • Let friends or family take over to give you a break
  • Talk to other parents; they will understand and may have tips
  • If it all gets too much, put the baby down in a safe spot and take a few minutes “time out”.

Read more about how to soothe a baby.

Avoid caffeine, spices and alcohol if you are breastfeeding as they can trigger colic.