If your baby cries for hours on end and has a gassy tummy after their feeds, they may have colic. Although it's really upsetting to see (and hear!), it's a very common problem that affects 1 in 5 babies, both bottle and breastfed, and it’s thought to be due to the developing digestive system. So you're not alone – even if it feels like it!
Why is my baby crying inconsolably?
If prolonged periods of crying, fussing, or irritability that occur for no obvious reason (often in the late afternoon or evening) sound familiar, it may be a sign of colic. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong. They do tend to grow out of it, but we understand how difficult it can be for you, and the whole family. Hang on in there, and in the meantime you may find some of the information below useful. If your baby is less than a year old, why not try our Baby Symptom Checker? It will give you useful advice and practical tips, and gives you a summary of your baby's symptoms to discuss with your healthcare professional.
What causes colic?
No one really knows why babies get colic, but it could be down to:
- Swallowing too much air as they feed, which fills their tummy with gas
- Their developing digestive system not being able to fully digest their milk
- Something in their milk (like a protein or sugar) that doesn’t agree with them
What are the symptoms of colic?
Along with the intense crying for no apparent reason, your baby may clench their fists, have red cheeks, arch their back and pull their knees into their tummy. The general rule for diagnosing colic is 3 hours or more of crying at least 3 times a week for at least a week. The good news is that the rest of the time, they’re likely to be their normal happy self!
What can I do to help?
Love and cuddles go a long way to helping them feel better. If your baby is less than a year old, you might also find our Baby Symptom Checker helpful for a handy symptom summary and advice for next steps. These practical tips may help too:
- Hold your baby when they cry
- Give them a nice warm bath
- Gently massage their tummy in a clockwise direction
- Ask your midwife or health visitor to show you different winding techniques
- Rock your baby back and forth or take them for a ride in the car – the movement may help settle them
- Put the washing machine or vacuum cleaner on – background noise can be soothing
- If you’re breastfeeding, cut down on spicy food and drinks with caffeine
- If you’re formula feeding, speak to your health visitor, GP or pharmacist about suitable specialist formulas for the dietary management of colic
- Speak to one of our feeding experts at the Careline for 1-to-1 support with colic
If you think your little one has colic, it is important you speak to your health visitor, GP or pharmacist for further information and advice, including the nutritional solutions available.