colic guide - default thumbnail mobile
The word ‘colic’ can bring up a lot of stress and worry for parents. Colic is typically defined as a baby that cries over a long period of time without any obvious reason. The online definition for this condition is a baby crying for three or more hours a day, three or more days a week, for three or more weeks. In such situations, both mother and father can feel helpless and guilty for not being able to soothe their child no matter what they do. To help with your concerns, we asked Malaak’s Lead Parent Educator Cecile de Scally to share her views and some tips on how to treat a colicky baby.
Bottle Feeding 3

Understanding potential causes

The first step is to understand that it is natural for a completely healthy baby to have colic. This unsettling condition will often go away by 3 months or 6 months of age and there is nothing to panic about. While there is no proven cause for colic, below are some potential reasons why your baby might be crying incandescently:

  1. Milk allergy or intolerance: If you have introduced a new formula or experimented with cow’s milk for feeding, and notice loose stool (diarrhoea) in their diapers, there is a chance that your little one has a milk allergy, this will cause them belly pains that lead to intense crying
  2. Adjusting to their surroundings: Once out of the womb, babies have to adjust to various kinds of stimuli such as lights, noises, tastes, touch and smells. These overwhelming sensory elements can take some time to get used to and infants might cry to display their discomfort.
  3. Unable to soothe themselves: As their nervous system is still developing, some babies cannot control their emotions and calm themselves down after starting to cry.

Symptoms to look out for

Below are some signs to look for if your little one is suffering from colic:

  1. Intense crying that may seem more like screaming or an expression of pain
  2. Grunting and pushing as if constipated
  3. Frequent burping or passing a lot of gas. This is because, while crying your little one may have swallowed a lot of air. However, it doesn’t cause colic
colic guide - article story block image

Advice on how to handle a colicky baby

With years of experience working alongside mothers and their little ones, Cecile shares her simple and effective advice below to ensure a much happier baby and a relieved mama.

Maintain a calm and soothing temperament when trying to calm a fussy baby. When you put up a relaxed and confident front, it reassures your baby that everything will be alright. Studies have shown that infants are affected by parents’ emotions and being irritated or upset when handling a colicky baby will not do any good. It is also advised to wear your baby in a carrier or a wrap when they are struggling.

Special care should be taken when making changes to their diet or feeding. If you are breastfeeding your child, ensure you eat well-balanced meals and keep a food diary with a log of everything you have eaten. Whenever your baby seems uncomfortable, you can eliminate select food items (e.g., dairy) from your meals for 10 days or so and slowly re-introduce them to check whether your baby is lactose intolerant or has any allergies. Understand that a baby's gut is immature during the initial months and needs time to adjust to digesting what we introduce into it.

Positioning your baby correctly while feeding and sleeping also plays a vital role. Feed your baby with their head higher than their bottom, this helps them swallow the breast milk easily. You should also hold your baby upright for 10 minutes after their feeds and if needed, elevate the head of their beds. Space their feeds at least an hour apart until 6 weeks and gradually increase the gap to 2-3 hours at 3 months and 4 hours at 4 months. “This is something I feel is important for allowing digestion to happen adequately,” says Cecile. Lastly, inculcating good sleep habits for well-rested mothers and babies will ensure less gas.

On the occasion of a fussy, uneasy episode, use natural remedies like gripe water or fennel tea once the baby is 4 weeks. To relieve them of excessive gas, give a few colic or gas drops as prescribed by the paediatrician. If your baby seems very distressed, visit an osteopath for their guidance.