All babies cry (some a lot more than others!), but with colic the crying can start suddenly for no apparent reason, and can happen often and for long periods. Colic isn’t a disease or a condition; it’s a result of your newborn adjusting to life outside the womb. You might find that the excessive crying happens more during the afternoons and evenings, but this will gradually lessen as they develop. If you suspect that tummy discomfort is the cause of your baby’s colicky crying, read on to learn about the causes and remedies to get you through this exhausting period of parenthood.
The cause of colic is unknown, but of the several theorised causes, an immature digestive system is one of them. Remember that your baby received all of their nutrients via the umbilical cord, but now they must digest milk which is a huge task for a brand new gastrointestinal system. As a result, painful wind can be caused by milk that digests too quickly or doesn’t break down sufficiently.
Another possible cause of tummy pain that leads to colicky crying is the result of food allergies or sensitivity. Some experts believe that it could be a reaction to cow’s milk protein found in formula, and in rare cases, the result of something in the breastfeeding mother’s diet.
Consult your GP or maternal and child health nurse to eliminate any other physiological causes, and before using any medications. The following remedies can help your baby, but what works for one baby may not work for another, so it can be trial and error.
Try different positions to see if any provide some relief to your little one. Try the ‘colic carry’, which is when you place your infant face down on your arm while you gently pat their back. Another option is to put your baby on your lap face down (with their head turned to the side), or upright against you with their tummy against your shoulder. A gentle baby massage, rubbing your baby’s tummy in a slow circular clockwise motion, can also be calming.
Again, try different positions to burp your baby. They may find some relief if you do this over your shoulder, or seated on your lap, or lying across your lap tummy-down as you pat or rub their back. You’ll probably find the most effective position that gets a good burp out of your baby. Alternatively, you might consider the view that burping your baby is making them more uncomfortable. Read more on that here.
These wind drops contain the active ingredient Simethicone, which is a defoaming agent that causes the small bubbles of gas in the baby’s stomach to join together, forming a larger bubble that is much easier to expel. They’ve long been a favourite of parents to safely treat the windy tummies of both breastfed and bottle-fed babies.
Talk to your GP or pediatrician if you think changing your standard formula for one designed for sensitive tummies, or without cow’s milk, might help. Once approved, the transition to a new formula should then be slow so your baby’s digestive system has time to adjust. Here is an example of how to do it, that can serve as a useful guide to getting started.
Consult with your GP or maternal and child health nurse about whether you should try eliminating any foods that might be causing tummy issues in your breastfed baby. This might be gas-causing vegetables, acidic fruits, or allergenic foods. Read more here on the common sensitivities, the symptoms, and what to do next.
There’s no doubt that colic is one of the most demanding and exhausting experiences of early parenthood, but the good news is that it will pass and is a normal part of development. Crying peaks at around six weeks, and typically tapers off at around 10-12 weeks. Hang in there, mumma! But, if it’s impacting your confidence in your ability to parent, you’re struggling, or you’re not coping, please reach out to your doctor or maternal and child health nurse, and chat to friends and family.