Diet-Related Colic: When to Suspect It and What to Do
Babies cry to let us know when they need us for something, whether they’re tired, uncomfortable, or sick. Sometimes babies cry because they want your comfort, and sometimes they cry for no known reason at all! This is known as colic. Here we explain.
What is Colic?
Colic is the crying and fussing of babies that happens often or lasts for a long time for no apparent physical or medical reason. This usually begins when babies are a few days or weeks old. Colic is common, effecting 1 in 5 babies under 3 months old.
What are the signs?
- Intense and inconsoluble crying
- Turning red or purple in the face
- Squirming and straining
- Drawing legs up
- Hands balled into fists
It is important to remember that while your baby may look like they are in pain, this type of crying is not caused by pain. Experts are still trying to work out what causes colic, but it is very difficult or even impossible to comfort babies when they are in this state, so try not to blame yourself.
Tips to help soothe your baby
The first step is always to check your baby isn’t hurt or uncomfortable. If there are no clear causes of their crying you can try:
- Gentle rocking
- Going for a walk or drive (if you’re not too tired)
- A warm bath
- Gentle baby massage
- Sing softly or play calming music
- Dim lights to reduce stimulation
When to see a doctor
If your baby is showing any of the following symptoms, book in with a GP or paediatrician:
- Noticeably decreased energy and lethargic
- Not feeding well
- Dropping down growth percentiles for their age
- Persistent vomiting or diarrhoea
There are many marketed products and ways of stopping or preventing colic. Sadly, these won’t work and can be very expensive. These include:
- Medications and mixtures: Over-the-counter colic mixtures from pharmacies have very little scientific basis.
- Chiropractic treatment: This is very unlikely help with colic unless your baby is suffering from physical developmental issues. Also, spinal adjustment in young babies can be dangerous.
- Changes in mother’s diet: If you are breastfeeding, changes in your diet are unlikely to reduce your baby’s crying unless they have been diagnosed with an allergy to something you are eating. Speaking to an accredited practicing dietitian specializing in this area may help.
- Change in formula brand: Unless recommended by your doctor, changing formula brands is not recommended and will not help with colic.
Make sure you are looking after yourself!
Caring for a baby going through a period of colic can be stressful, and it is important to give yourself a break if you feel exhausted, anxious or angry. Parents of a baby with colic are often sleep deprived, making dealing with these emotions even harder. If possible, reach out for help from a partner, friend or family member.
Tips to help yourself feel better
Make sure you don’t undervalue looking after yourself while coping with colic in your baby. Some things that might help include:
- Give yourself a break when possible
- Sleep (especially while your baby is asleep)
- Soothing warm drinks like tea or hot chocolate
- Make sure you’re eating enough nutritious foods
- Have a shower or bath
- Exercise (only if you feel physically up to it and are sleeping enough)
- Relaxing and deep breathing
- Getting fresh air (even from simply sitting in the backyard)
Remember your baby is fragile, and due to this it’s important to never shake them. If you feel you are not coping, or that your relationship with your baby or partner is being negatively affected, it may be helpful to see a maternal health nurse, psychologist, or join a mothers/parenting group to talk with other parents who may be going through the same thing. Statistically colic is likely to stop or reduce after a few weeks. Weeks can be a long time to associate with the emotions linked to colic for both baby and parents, so look after yourself and your baby as best you can and know it’s not your fault.
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2. Melbourne, T. (2021) Kids Health Information: Crying and unsettled babies – colic , Royal Children’s Hospital. Rch.org.au. Available at: https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Crying_and_unsettled_babies/ (Accessed: 25 August 2021).
3. Infant Colic - Do probiotics help treat infants with colic? (2021). Available at: https://www.melbournepaediatricspecialists.com.au/probiotics-colic/ (Accessed: 30 August 2021).
4. Crying: babies (2021). Available at: https://raisingchildren.net.au/newborns/behaviour/crying-colic/crying-babies (Accessed: 30 August 2021).