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Health Facts

General Health


Toddlers & Children




What is Colic?

This is a harmless self limiting condition often occurring in an infant who otherwise appears to be healthy. Colic is usually defined by what is known as the "Rule of Three" - When an infant has episodes of uncontrolled crying for a period of 3 hours per day, on at least 3 days per week, for at least 3 weeks. It affects 20% of infants and usually commences around the age of 2 - 4 weeks and will often last until about 3 - 4 months of age (sometimes longer). Babies with colic often feed well and gain weight well. It occurs equally in breastfed and bottle-fed babies and equally in both sexes.


  • Sudden onset of crying in an otherwise healthy infant. Baby will be fretful and inconsolable
  • Usually is worse in the evening and often occurs around the same time
  • Baby may appear to be in pain - may arch back, lift head, draw legs up to their tummy, be red in the face and may pass wind. Hands are clenched
  • Some babies may refuse to eat, others may want to suckle
  • Baby will have difficulty in falling asleep and in staying asleep
  • Abdominal distension may be present

There is no known cause for colic but possible contributing factors might include:

  • An immature gut (lack of pro-biotics in the gut)
  • An immature nervous system
  • Mothers diet in a breastfed baby ( eg. foods such as chocolate, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, etc)
  • Cows milk intolerance

What can you do to help baby?

  • Motion sometimes helps
  • Hold baby with their back to your chest and their knees bent up to their tummy (as if they are squatting) and walk or rock
  • Place baby over your knees on his/her tummy and sway your knees from side to side.
  • A baby swing, pram rides or a drive in the car may also help
  • Swaddle baby - it might increase their feeling of security
  • Sing or talk soothingly to relax baby. Constant shhhhing sounds might help.
  • Constant low steady background noises may also help. eg. run the washing machine, clothes drier or vacuum cleaner with baby nearby
  • Play a relaxation CD (this might help mum & dad relax also)
  • Gently massaging baby's tummy in a clockwise direction
  • Giving baby a soothing warm bath
  • Experimenting with maternal diet might help in the breastfed infant. Eliminating such foods as chocolate, caffeine, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, etc; and reintroducing them slowly to see if baby reacts may narrow intolerances down but may also prove nothing. Mum must also be reminded of the need for a well balanced diet
  • The use of an anti-colic bottle and teat system in the bottle-fed baby may be of help
  • Burp baby frequently during feeds
  • Soothers may help if baby wants to suckle
  • Some over the counter products may be of assistance - speak with your Pharmacist with regard to these.

Words of Advice

It is very important to realise that Colic is a self-limiting and harmless condition, which will resolve itself. It is not a sign of chronic illness to follow.
Your doctor should see your baby if you are worried or if your baby's condition changes. This will allow the doctor to rule out any other organic conditions that might be causing problems. Parents should always trust their intuition where baby is concerned - no one knows baby like Mum and Dad. Before taking baby to the GP, if it becomes necessary, you should note baby's feeding times, crying times and sleeping times.

Some Strategies to Help

  • Arrange a backup so that you can have a break and recharge your batteries - relatives, neighbours and friends
  • Try to get as much rest as possible
  • Talk about your feelings - it is normal to be tired and frustrated
  • Stay positive - things will improve!