Help with colicky babies

12 April 2014

Your baby is crying incessantly and you’re at your wits’ end and about to dissolve into tears with him/her. Moms of colicky babies know this feeling of desperation. Here are a few tips that may help.

Your baby is crying incessantly and you’re at your wits’ end and about to dissolve into tears with him/her. Moms of colicky babies know this feeling of desperation. Here’s advice that may help.

What is colic?

Researchers define it as, “A healthy, well-fed baby that cries for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week, for more than three weeks.”

What causes it?

No one is sure but research points to things such as allergies, lactose intolerance, anxiety from the mother and overstimulation.

What can you do?

The first step is to have your baby examined by a paediatrician to see if there’s a medical reason for their distress.

Colic is often caused by digestive problems so pay special attention to baby’s feeding habits.

Jenny Wright of The Parent Centre recommends moms get help with managing breastfeeding. “It can help enormously as some colic cases are actually related to problems with lactation management. There are now many so-called International Board Certified Lactation Consultants or IBCLCs in South Africa. They have the knowledge to help mothers to find out if breastfeeding is contributing to the problem.”

  • Rethink the menu Colicky babies sometimes have a milk allergy. Change your own diet for a while if breastfeeding, by for instance omitting dairy and see if that helps. Or if feeding your baby milk formula, try another kind.
  • Althoughit could be colicexperts suggest you watch your baby’s crying behaviour to see if there’s a pattern. Your baby for instance could be overstimulated by too much time outside the house or too many people around them, making them overreact to tiredness, hunger or a wet nappy.
  • Get the right bottle If feeding your child with a bottle check it’s not contributing to wind. The more air the baby swallows while drinking the bigger the possibility for stomach problems. The hole in the teat must not be too big or too small: one that is too big lets the liquid out to quickly while if the hole is too small baby is frustrated so takes bigger gulps.
  • Use a hot-water bottle Some babies like the feeling of warm water on their stomach. Use lukewarm water to fill the hot-water bottle, wrap it in a towel and put it on your tummy. Let your baby lie on top of you and the bottle. Check the water isn’t too hot – remember what you perceive to be warm might be boiling hot for your baby.
  • Babies react differently to sound. Try a few techniques to see what works:

    • Music Sing to your baby or play a CD with lullabies. You even get CDs that imitate the noises inside the womb.
    • Make a noise Some experts say some babies like hearing noises that remind them of their time in the womb. Hold the baby while vacuuming, see if the noise of the tumble dryer has any effect or go for a drive in the car.
    • Silence Somebabies need less stimulation and prefer a quiet, dark place.
    • Get help Don’t forget you need sleep. Ask a friend or your mom to help if necessary. You’ll be surprised at the difference a power nap makes to your mood and energy levels.

Get more help here: Go to It has loads of products and advice for among others moms with colicky babies and babies with sleep problems and food allergies.

Dr Harvey Karp, an American paediatrician and the author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, recommends the so-called “5 Ss” to get your baby to stop crying. To read more about this technique click here.

For Cape Town moms: Linda Waner, a facilitator at The Parent Centre in Cape Town, invites all moms-to-be and moms with babies younger than a year to a talk on colic and reflux by Cape Town paediatrician Dr Deon Smith at Mediclinic Cape Town on 27 May at 11 am. For more info go to  or call 021-762 0116.

-Suzaan Hauman


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