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 In Newborns, postpartum care

They’re not sick, hungry, wet or tired but they’re still totally inconsolable and the periods of upset can last for hours at a time and usually occur three or more days a week. One word. Colic. But what is it? Well, rather than a diagnosis, ‘colic’ is a behaviour, and refers to babies that cry a lot for no apparent reason. It can be upsetting, frustrating and baffling. To help relieve some of the stress, here are five answers to common questions to do with colic.

1) Does my baby have colic?

As any mother who has dealt with colic will tell you, if your baby has it, you know it! But if you’re not familiar with the signs, here’s what to look out for:

  • Intense bouts of crying that last longer than three hours and occur three times a week or more
  • Crying in the late afternoon or evening
  • Drawing up knees, arching back and clenching fists
  • Cluster feeding
  • Unable to settle or sleep easily

2) What causes it?

Unfortunately nobody knows the exact cause of colic. However, some theories of what’s behind it include:

  • Gas

Digesting food is a big task for a brand new gastrointestinal system, and can result in gas. In this case, baby doesn’t know how to cope with trapped wind, which often causes them to experience tummy pain.

  • Overstimulation

Isn’t it remarkable how newborn babies have the ability to sleep through everything from a tornado to a fire alarm. The reason for this is that babies have a built-in mechanism for tuning out sights and sounds. However, near to the end of the first month, this mechanism peters out, leaving babies more sensitive to their surroundings. In turn, this can cause them to be stressed, and cry. This also explains why colic tends to clear up at around three months, when babies learn how to filter out environmental stimuli.

  • Development

One theory is that it’s a natural development that babies go through as they adjust to all the different sensations that come with life outside the womb.

3)  Is colic normal?

While theories on colic vary, some estimates suggest that between 8 and 40 percent of babies become colicky. While the cause is unknown, what we do know is that episodes of colic are equally common among boys and girls and both babies who are breastfed and those who are bottle-fed.

4) How long does colic last?

Hang in there because most episodes peak at around six weeks and then end as suddenly as they started at around the three-month mark.

5) How can I relieve my baby during bouts of colic?

Each baby is different so it’s definitely a case of try, try and try again! But here are a few things you can try to relieve colic.

Feeding on demand

Smaller, more regular meals make digestion easier for bub.


Burping at the end of a feed is common practice but burping halfway through is also a good idea if baby is colicky. Some babies are easily burped while others take a long while, so be patient.

Keep baby upright

Keeping baby upright for a good 15 minutes after feeding is a good way to relieve colic.  A sling or a carrier is useful if you need to get on with things.

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