Breastfeeding the Colic Infant

Babies and Colic

As famous Dr. Sears has put it, when explaining about the colic infant, “if you are wondering whether or not you have a colicky baby, you probably don't have one. The colic baby leaves no doubt in the minds of sympathetic caregivers that he is truly in agony."


How Do I Know If My Baby Has Colic?

You know your baby has colic when:

1. Baby cries more than 3 hours every 24 hours.

2. Baby cries as much as mentioned above, more than 3 times every week.

3. Baby does this for more than three weeks at a time.

What Causes Colic?

Some possible causes of colic in infants could be:

Food allergy related to cow’s milk in Mom’s diet. The cow’s milk proteins are drank through Mom’s breast milk and are sometimes too difficult to digest. This can also cause Acid reflux.

•    Food allergy related to other foods. Some foods that might cause the problem.

•    If Mom smokes during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding, it can cause colic. It is still better to breastfeed though, even If Mom is smoking.

•    Some feeding problems such as bad latch or an overactive let down (breast milk flows too fast) can cause problems.

Lactose intolerance, which is very rare.

• Lactose overload / foremilk hind-milk imbalance. Baby is getting in too much of the watery milk at the beginning of a feed and not enough of the fatty hindmilk towards the end of a feed. This is common in Moms with oversupply of breast milk. Mom should not limit the time baby spends on a breast, but let baby decide when he/she is finished.

Colic Symptoms

•    Unexplained crying that follows the 3 hour, 3 day, 3 week rule above. Crying incidents may occur during certain times of the day, especially in the late afternoons and sometimes at the same time every day.

•    The symptoms of colic are usually worse between 3 and 8 weeks of baby’s life. The symptoms should be completely gone by 6 months.

•    High pitched screaming. Other illnesses should also be investigated.

•    Baby’s knees are drawn in towards the tummy.

•    A colic infant’s firsts are usually clenched tight.

•    Baby’s abdomen may be bloated.

Natural Remedies for Colic

•    Make sure that you recognise the signs of hunger.

Comfort feed baby as much as possible.

• Try to eliminate dairy products from your diet for a few weeks. Introducing them back slowly.

•    Carrying a baby in a sling can dramatically reduce crying. Read more on the benefits of babywearing. Apparently 3 extra hours of carrying has been found to reduce crying in a one-month-old colic infant by 45% (Hunziker, 1986)

Skin to skin contact has also been used to calm colicky babies.

•    Chiropractic treatments have been found to be very effective when done over a period of 14 days.

•    If baby has lactose intolerance, Mom can pump her breast milk and add lactase supplements to the milk for baby. Read more on exclusive pumping here.

•    Get as much support and positive influences in your life as possible.

Things to Avoid

Do not switch to formula. Especially not a soy based formula. Breast milk is always best! If Mom cannot provide enough of her own breast milk, donor breast milk from a trustworthy source, is the second best choice. Formula should always be the last resort.

Top of colic infant page

Tracy Behr, CBC, CLD (CBI)

Reference: Breastfeeding counselor course through Childbirthinternational.com on the physiology of breastfeeding / breastfeeding problems / colic infant.


Other pages on breastfeeding problems in connection with this page on colic and breastfeeding

Reasons why baby could be crying.



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