Colic: Signs, symptoms and how to help

Baby with colic

What is colic?

Colic is when a baby cries or is irritable for prolonged periods of time for no obvious reason1. Up to one in five babies suffer with colic1, and while it’s very common, hearing your baby cry for hours on end can be difficult, upsetting, and plain exhausting. Read on to learn about the signs and symptoms to look out for, what causes colic, and how to help.

Signs and symptoms of colic

Colic symptoms are often worse in the late afternoon or evening. Common signs include2:


  • A hard, bloated tummy and excess gas after feeding.
  • Clenched fists.
  • Red, flushed cheeks.
  • An arched back and knees pulled up to the tummy.
  • Intense and inconsolable crying, often for very long periods of time.

If you have any concerns, speak to your health visitor or GP. Our Baby Symptom Checker can also give you practical advice and support on dealing with colic.

Baby colic

What causes colic?

Colic affects both breast and bottle-fed babies. Whilst the causes are largely unknown, there are a number of factors that could be at play.


Your baby's developing digestive system (2)

Your newborn is new to feeding and their digestive system is still figuring things out. Having received all the nutrition they needed in the womb via your placenta, learning to swallow and digest milk can be quite a shock to the system. Your baby may just need a little time to adjust.


Your baby swallowing excess air during feeding (3)

Air bubbles in your little one’s tummy can cause painful gas, and a fair amount of discomfort.


Sensitivity to proteins and sugars

Certain proteins and sugars found in breast or formula milk can unsettle your baby’s tummy2.

How long does colic last?

Most babies outgrow colic by the time they’re four to six months old.

Baby colic

How to soothe a baby with colic

Here are some tried and tested ways that may help soothe your baby:


  • Wind your baby halfway through feeding, as well as at the end of each feed.
  • Ask your Health Visitor to show you different winding techniques.
  • Try rocking your baby and holding them in different positions.
  • Gently rub their back and tummy in a clockwise direction.
  • Give them a nice warm bath to ease any discomfort.
  • Try to sit your baby upright whilst they’re feeding to make sure they don’t swallow too much air. And keep them upright for a little while after feeds.
  • Take your baby for a ride in the car – the movement may help settle them.
  • Put the washing machine or vacuum cleaner on – white noise can be soothing.
  • Get one-to-one support from one of our trained experts.
  • If you’re bottle-feeding, try using a fast-flow teat – teats with small holes can lead to your baby swallowing too much air whilst feeding.
  • If you’re formula feeding, ask your Health Visitor if your baby might benefit from a formula designed for babies with colic.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer when your baby has colic. All babies are different, and there will be some trial and error when trying to find the most effective way to comfort your baby.

Taking care of you: Happy mum, happy baby

Dealing with colic can be frustrating and stressful to say the least, so it’s important to take some time out to look after yourself. Take a break when you can and accept any offers of help that come your way.

Remember, our team of trained experts and experienced mums are on hand 24/7 to offer you help and support, whenever you need it.

  1. Vandenplas Y et al. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2015;61(5):531-7.
  2. NHS. Colic [online]. 2018. Available at: [Accessed September 2020]
  3. NCT. Coping with colic symptoms in babies [Online]. 2018. Available at: [Accessed September 2020]

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