Colic is a medical term that’s used to describe a baby that’s otherwise healthy and thriving who displays repeated episodes of excessive and inconsolable crying. These episodes usually last for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week, for at least one week and are stressful for both parents and babies.
Although colic is fairly rare – with only 11% of babies get colic in the first six weeks, dropping to 0.6% by 10 to 12 weeks – it can happen any time before a little one hits the six-month mark. It can be tricky to cope with for those families who do experience it.
To help you out, we’ve gathered some top tips for how to soothe a baby with colic when nothing else seems to work.
What causes colic?
Frustratingly, it’s not known what exactly causes some babies to get colic. Some medical professionals think it might be caused by stomach pains, changes in hormone levels, trapped wind, exposure to tobacco smoke, or sensitivity to milk protein.
What are the symptoms of colic?
It’s normal for babies to cry and just because your little one is crying, it doesn’t mean they’ve got colic. Normally, a baby will respond to your attempts to comfort them, and they will eventually stop crying. However, it may be colic if…
- Your baby cries for more than three and a half hours a day.
- Their crying is inconsolable, almost continuous, intense, and sounds different from their usual cries.
- They cry the most during late afternoon and early evening.
- Their face becomes red and flushed.
- They are clenching their fists, bringing their legs up to their tummy or are arching their back.
Top tips for coping with baby colic
If your baby does have colic, you’ll understandably be looking for ways to comfort and soothe them. The following tips may help:
Some babies love being swaddled with their arms tucked into their chest because it reminds them of being in the womb. If you do swaddle your little one, make sure to lay them on their back, and stop swaddling them as soon as they show signs of being able to roll over on their own.
Whether it’s your voice, white noise, or some calming background music, sound is a great way to soothe and distract an upset baby.
Gently rubbing your baby’s tummy in circular motions after a nappy change can help to aid their digestion and release any trapped wind. It’s best to massage your baby’s tummy as a preventative measure when they’re content and not crying or in pain.
Go for a ride
Some babies find movement soothing. Going for a drive in the car, popping them in their pram for a stroll around the block, or rocking them in their Moses basket may help to calm and comfort them.
Skin-to-skin and swaying
Feeling close and connected to you may help to calm and soothe your baby. Holding them close to your chest as you sway gently lets them feel your heartbeat and can help settle them.
Give them a warm bath
We all know that soaking in a warm bath is relaxing, and some babies find it relaxing too! The warmth of the water will help to relax their muscles. Plus, splashing about and playing with bath toys will provide some welcome distraction for you both.
Go fast flow
If you’re bottle feeding and your baby is colicky, one reason could be that the bottle teat has too small a hole, causing them to ingest air. Switching to a fast-flow anti-colic bottle teat will help to reduce the amount of air your baby swallows.
Holding your little one upright during feeds can reduce the amount of air they swallow and helps to prevent trapped wind. When they’re not feeding, rather than cradling them face-up, you can try lying your baby with your hand under their belly and their head on your forearm.
Change their feed
If you’re using formula to feed your little one, it may help to ask your health visitor or doctor about using a hypoallergenic formula. Colic shouldn’t affect your little one’s feeds, but if they lose their appetite or don’t appear to be gaining weight properly, you should speak to your doctor.
Hang in there and ask for support.
Remember that all parents who go through colic find it tough, and you’re not alone! It’s a difficult phase, but it won’t last forever. Remember that it’s ok to put your baby down somewhere safe (like in their cot or Moses basket) and have 10 minutes to yourself. Try to care for yourself, stay calm, take a break, and reach out to friends and family for support whenever you need it.
Should I give my baby anti-colic drops?
If you’re thinking of giving your baby supplements or drops that claim to help with colic, it’s best to speak to your doctor or health visitor before you do so. There’s insufficient evidence to show that these products work.
When to seek help for soothing colic
Although it can be unpleasant, colic isn’t normally anything to worry about.
But if your baby’s colic symptoms aren’t improving after the age of four months, you’re worried it might be something more serious than colic or are struggling to cope with your baby’s crying at any time, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your doctor or health visitor for advice and support.
They will be able to investigate further and can point you in the direction of support groups in your local area.