Last updated on Feb 17th, 2021 at 08:42 am

Does your baby fuss and cry endlessly at the same time each night, for hours on end? According to the American Academy of Paediatrics, this is a classic sign of colic, which affects around a fifth of all babies between the ages of two and four weeks. Colic is generally diagnosed when a little one cries for three hours or more, most days of the week, for more than three weeks.


What causes colic?

There is no single cause of colic, but experts tend to agree on two main causes – overstimulation and diet-related colic linked to a mother’s breastmilk or a baby’s formula.


Occupational therapist and parenting expert Meg Faure as well as clinic nurse Ann Richardson, believe that colic-type symptoms arise when a baby is overstimulated towards the end of the day, and the child becomes inconsolable because they can’t yet self-soothe or self-regulate effectively. “In young babies, the process of filtering out unnecessary or excessive sensory input is not yet mature. So, your newborn will be easily overstimulated, which can result in colic and mean your little one won’t fall asleep easily,” explains Meg. To prevent this type of colic, Meg says it’s important to ease your baby into the world by ensuring he doesn’t become overstimulated. The truth is, for newborns, just being alive is enough stimulation, so massage, touch, holding and talking is all your baby needs in terms of stimulation.

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Signs your baby is overstimulated:

  • Looking away or ‘spacing out’
  • Hiccups
  • Grimacing and rubbing his eyes
  • Crying and moaning
  • Pulling his legs up

ALSO SEE: 10 ways to calm an overstimulated baby

Diet-related colic

Sometimes, in breastfed babies, colic is a sign of sensitivity to a food in the mother’s diet, say experts from the American Academy of Paediatrics. This type of discomfort is caused, only rarely, by sensitivity to milk protein in formula. If your child is on formula and you suspect the type he’s on is causing colicky symptoms, speak to your paediatrician immediately.

Nutritionist and wellness expert Desi Horsman suggests watching out for these symptoms:  

  • Your child brings his knees up to his stomach often after a feed
  • He arches backwards often
  • He clenches his fists
  • He moans a lot and appears to be restless, especially after a feed
  • He has regular bouts of reflux and vomiting
  • He cries inconsolably (as described above)

Foods to watch out for

“Remember that any food you’re slightly intolerant to or makes your stomach bloated and gassy, will have the same effect on your baby,” warns Desi. If you’re concerned that your little one’s colic is due to your diet, steer clear of these common food culprits, but also see a dietician who can advise a balanced diet while breastfeeding since some of these foods are rich in nutrients and shouldn’t be cut out unnecessarily.

  • Dairy – this is one of the biggest causes of reflux and colic and is quite controversial given that your baby is feeding on milk. Modern methods of processing dairy may be a big contributing factor, says Desi.
  • Cruciferous vegetables. Although these are packed with vitamins and minerals, veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussel sprouts can cause a lot of gas and bloating.
  • Legumes, pulses and beans (this also includes peanuts and peas)
  • Garlic, onions and mushrooms
  • Spicy foods
  • Gluten and refined carbohydrates
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate (we’re sorry!)
  • Eggs
  • Citrus

ALSO SEE: Your ultimate breastfeeding meal plan

Desi’s natural remedies to soothe a colicky baby

  • Chamomile tea and fennel tea for Mom. Although your little one shouldn’t drink these teas directly, they’re safe for you to consume when brestfeeding.
  • Mag phos tissue salt #8 – which is an anti-spasmodic. This needs to be crushed and dissolved in a little water. Simply give a spoonful to your baby just before a feed and after and then as needed.
  • Nat phos tissue salt #10 – this tissue salt will ease pains from acidity and reflux.

Although tissue salts are perfectly safe for little ones if you’re at all concerned, about dosage and directions for use, chat to a registered homeopath for more guidance.

Massage and gentle pressure

  • Rub your little one’s tummy clockwise (very gently).
  • Put a little pressure on your baby’s tummy by holding your baby upright with his tummy against you.

Natural remedies

  • Probiotics (these can be given from birth and are essential to your baby’s gut health).
  • Rescue remedy. Colic is often caused by your little one reacting to stress.
  • Homeopathic colic remedy formulas.