The parents’ guide to navigating colic

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
(Image: Getty Images)
(Image: Getty Images)

When it comes to welcoming your baby home, there are many things new parents prepare for in advance – from babyproofing or setting up a safe and cosy baby nursery, to stocking up on clothes, diapers, toys, and accessories. But few parents are prepared or aware of what to do when their baby has colic, and little seems to help soothe their crying.

What exactly is ‘colic’?

‘Colic’ is defined by WebMD as a condition that is characterised by inconsolable crying and fretfulness for hours at a time. The crying can sometimes last sporadically throughout the day but usually occurs at specific times of the day, typically in the late afternoon or evening.

The good news is that if you do have a colicky baby, it’s common in 20 – 40% of babies and won’t put your infant in the risk of physical danger. They will likely grow out of it as colic typically tends to only last in the first three to four months of an infant’s life.

And while there is no definitive consensus on the one cause of colic from the medical fraternity, many believe there is a link to their digestive systems as colic babies often also show symptoms of excessive gas and gut inflammation. 

Similarly, there’s no one “cure” for colic, however finding solutions that help soothe the symptoms in those first months – is good for baby and you! 

Does my baby have colic - What are the symptoms to look out for?

It’s important to know that not every crying infant has colic, be sure to eliminate the possibility of it being a need for a feed, diaper change, or if they’re constipated. However, if your baby is excessively and inconsolably crying and displaying the below symptoms, it might be wise to visit your paediatrician to be sure. Some of the common symptoms associated with colic to look for when your baby is crying excessively include:

• A reddened face • High-pitched, warbling cry • Knees flexed up to their chest • Hands balled into fists • Face looks pained • Back arching and neck extension • Rigid body posture • Sweating or a flushed face • Cold feet

How to soothe a colicky baby:

If you’re finding it hard to console your baby when they’re crying, these tips could help you to soothe your baby:

Calm their senses

Bright lights and sounds can aggravate a colicky baby further, it’s best to cocoon their space by placing or moving your crying infant to a dark or dimly lit and quiet room to help them feel less frazzled. Swaddling them in a blanket can also help to soothe their sense of touch and allow them to feel more contained and secure. Other ways to help calm their senses and muscles include gently rubbing them or massaging their back when they’re crying or offering them a pacifier or running a warm bath to help with any digestive irritation. 

Soothe with sound and motion

Movement is also suggested to help soothe a colicky infant - like walking around, gently rocking or swaying them in your arms, or keeping them close in a baby carrier strapped to you as you move. Alternatively, putting them in the car seat and taking a quiet and gentle drive around the neighbourhood can help to quiet their tears. And, while loud noises can be aggravating, soothing sounds could help to calm them when crying. Whether it’s playing soothing instrumental music at a low volume, playing nature sounds, using a white noise machine, or simply running a fan, vacuum or washing machine in the background – a gentle and steady sound can help to relax them. 

Consult a paediatrician about adjusting your or their diet

Since many believe there is a close link to the digestive system, particularly inflammation, in colicky babies, it might be wise to consider consulting your paediatrician or dietitian on how to best adjust yours and your baby’s diet to soothe their symptoms. While it is wise to consider the baby’s diet, breastfeeding mothers should also consider their diet and what gets passed through their milk to the baby that could be upsetting their digestive system. Other ways to adjust can be through their feeding routine – from option for a smaller teat or bottle that lessens the amount of swallowed air to reduce gas or ensuring that your baby gets all their gas out sooner rather than later after a feed. To do the latter, simply ensure you burp your baby throughout their feed to reduce a build-up of gas and hold their legs up to their chest for a few short minutes to help any excess gas get out too. 

• Talk to your paediatrician about probiotic drops

Another way to help navigate the digestive side of colic could be through the use of probiotic drops. Products like REUTERINA® probiotic drops look to restore the balance of natural ‘good’ bacteria (flora) in your baby’s gut to help prevent inflammation and irritation from gas. REUTERINA® is favoured for use in infants with colic. They ensure that with just 5 drops-a-day for a period of 28 – 30 days, REUTERINA® can significantly reduce the daily crying time of infants with colic as compared to infants receiving a placebo drop. Together with this positive clinical response, REUTERINA® has been found to carry a beneficial anti-inflammatory effect in the gut of infants with colic. As always, consult your paediatrician for more information on probiotics and what would work best for your baby.  

These are just some ways to guarantee yourself some peace of mind when navigating life with a colicky newborn – you’ve got this!  

This post is sponsored by Reuterina and produced BrandStudio24 for News24.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.