This post may contain affiliate links. Read more in my disclosure policy.

infant colic remedies

Baby colic, sometimes called infantile colic, is a very unwelcome guest in a new family. Still, some 10-20% of all newborn babies will develop colic. While no one knows exactly what causes colic, there are some theories as well as treatments that can help you to deal with your colicky baby and many sleepless nights.

Colic can be incredibly hard on the family, but in the middle of everything, remember that it does pass.

In this post, you’ll learn about causes, symptoms, remedies and other parents’ testimonies of infant colic.

Baby Colic And How To Deal With It

What is baby colic?

Infant colic causes and remediesWhen your baby is labeled as being colicky, it can be very stressful. It can help to understand exactly what having colic means.

The name colic is given to infants who suffer from severe, unexplained crying spells on a daily basis. Many times this occurs early in the evening.

So infantile colic is not a medical condition. Or rather – it is not a condition that medicine has found a reason for. Hopefully, in the future, the doctors will find the reasons, so these poor babies and their parents can get more effective help.

The definition of colic is (usually) that a young baby cries for more than 3 hours more than 3 days per week and that all other reasons for the crying have been ruled out.

In some places, the definition is that the baby cries for three hours every day.

10-20% of all infants in developed countries are diagnosed with colic and it is just as common among breastfed babies as formula-fed. The start of colic is uncommon among babies that are younger than 2 weeks old and older than 3 months old. Colic is very uncommon in developing countries.

Possible causes of baby colic

While no one knows for sure what actually causes colic in infants, there are some theories on why it happens:

  • One theory is that the baby’s intestines are somehow overactive, creating cramps and pain.
  • Another theory is that it is mainly gas that creates the problem.
  • There is also sometimes seems to be a connection between mom consuming dairy products and colic in her infant (if she breastfeeds).

All these theories are based on the baby’s behavior during the crying spells. It looks very much as if the baby is in great pain.

However, recent research indicates that babies’ brain reactions are more similar to anger than pain. Somehow I think I could endure better the thought of my baby being furious than in pain, even if it is very stressful anyway. As far as I know, however, no one has yet been able to explain why the babies would be angry.

A theory that relates to this, however, is that colicky babies are more sensitive to overstimulation than average babies, and hence need more peace and quiet.

Symptoms of baby colic

The symptoms of infant colic are quite distinct. They will suffer from uncontrollable crying spells and may even pull their legs up into a fetal position as in an attempt to alleviate pain. You may also see the baby stiffen his or her legs rigidly while clenching their fists.

Your baby may turn red from crying and may at times show signs of relief when passing gas.

The signs of colic generally start at 2 to 3 weeks of age and last up to 3 to 6 months, usually 3-4 months, though. This will not affect how your baby grows or how he or she will develop.

Possible treatments for colic

Once you and your pediatrician have determined that your baby indeed has colic, you will want to have some sort of treatment plan to follow to see if you can alleviate some of the symptoms.

However, since the causes of infantile colic are so poorly understood, the treatments available are not that great either.

As a general rule, the doctor will do a series of tests to rule out any medical problems. For example, ear infections, urinary tract infections, acid reflux, and cow’s milk intolerance can give similar symptoms.

There are a number of natural remedies for colic that you can try:

1. Feeding position – You can feed your baby in an upright position to help eliminate too much air from being swallowed.

2. Peaceful feeding – You should also try to be sure that you feed your baby in a quiet, calm room.

3. Adjust your diet if you breastfeed – If you are breastfeeding, you may want to cut out spicy foods as well as dairy products as you could be passing it to your baby when you breastfeed and some colicky babies appear to get better when particularly lactose is completely excluded from mom’s diet. To learn more about what to eat while breastfeeding, click here.

4. Lactosefree formula – If the baby is formula-fed, using a formula with no lactose in it may also help.

5. No smoking – If you smoke and breastfeed, stop. Nicotine is known to cause tummy pain in infants.

6. Try baby massage – Many babies suffering from infant colic react positively to baby massage.

7. Acid reflux remedies – An interesting book (which you can check out here at Amazon) is by a pediatrician who explains why acid reflux is often mistaken for infant colic and what you can do to help your baby.

8. A tummy wrap – Another quite cute remedy is a baby tummy wrap (link to Amazon) that you can make warm. Remember how incredibly good it felt to put a warm wrap on your own tummy when the first contractions set in? A heated tummy wrap can be a great comfort for stomach pain, not just for babies with colic. Just don’t overheat it!

9. The baby bottle – If you ever bottle-feed your baby, try using a BornFree Active Flow baby bottle. They have been shown in research to reduce colic symptoms in diagnosed babies.

10. Fennel – Fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare) seed oil has also shown to reduce colic symptoms. A study (referenced below) showed a 45% reduction in infant colic symptoms and a 65% reduction of colic (as defined) in children receiving 5 to 20 ml of a 0.1% fennel seed oil emulsion up to four times per day for one week.

11. Colic gripe water – When it comes to medicines, colic gripe water is found by many parents to help their babies to some extent.

12. Chiropractic care – Some parents and also research studies support that chiropractic care of infants with colic can be effective.

There is also a “real” medicine that has proven effects on colic, but since it also has adverse side effects it is usually only given to children with particularly severe colic. Ask your pediatrician for advice.

Tips for parents

One of the first tips for parents is to try to remain as calm as possible and never take your frustrations out on your baby. Easier said than done maybe, but extremely important, of course.

If you just can’t take it anymore, it is better that you put your baby down someplace safe and walk out of the room for a while, rather than risking to hurt your baby.

The 5 S’s may provide help.

Keep in mind that babies like to be cuddled or swaddled, so wrap your baby up and try walking with him or her or rocking while you cuddle. Studies have also shown that babies that are carried a lot tend to cry less. So put your baby is a baby wrap or carrier and try to continue with your day.

Also, remember to take turns. It is extremely hard and stressful to take care of a newborn baby that just won’t settle no matter what you do. If you are a single parent, this is really the time to test your friends. Even just 10 minutes away from your crying child can help you cope with the situation.

Parents’ tips and colicky stories

To hear what has worked and not, and how other parents have endured the colic times, can be very valuable. Quite a few parents have shared their tips and feelings below in the comment section.

I am so grateful to all of you who take your time to share and thereby help a fellow parent! <3

Please share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment below!

Research References

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Avatar

    My little girl started crying after feeding then all the time from around 4-5 weeks on. She was so perfect before then at first I thought something was wrong with her, but no it was normal onset time for colic and that’s what we had – a colic baby 🙁

    The causes we were given included the possibility of the baby not getting the right bacteria in her belly to digest with, usually a problem for formula fed babies as babies get their bacteria from their mothers breast milk but also if a breastfeeding mother doesn’t have the right bacteria to pass on the baby can still have trouble. Since I had IBS and realized I had a high possibility of not having the right bacteria we did research and found that babies with colic had a 95% improvement rate when given a probiotic called Lactobaciullus Reuteri. I’m in Australia and no infant products containing this bacteria are sold here, so we bought some from amazon at stupid cost but it did seem to help. Biogaia probiotic drops is the product.

    I also cut milk out of my diet and dragged out my feeding times from every 2 hours (she would wake up screaming and feeding was the only thing that would move the gas bubbles along so I would feed her after 2 hours) to a minimum of three, if she needed to move gas pockets before three we would give her a bottle of water. This was because newborns digestive systems really only properly move things along the next time they feed – which is why you hear all the gurgles and clunks when you feed! But overfeeding milk can cause undigested sugars to get into the lower gut and once available to the bacteria naturally present there they go nuts and produce large quantities of gas – just like how beer brews. So stopping undigested milk sugar (lactose) from getting past the stomach is also important, and not overfeeding or feeding too frequently can help if this is the problem.

    She was also horribly hard to burp, and sometimes I would give up after 30 minutes of trying to burp her with no result. I learned not to stop trying to burp her until I got something out, even if it meant leaving her as upright as possible in a vibrating bouncer to help bring the wind up. She had enough gas without swallowed air contributing to her pain.

    We also took precautions against reflux in case this was contributing, elevating the head of her bedding by putting a filled (but cold) hot water bottle under her mattress at the pillow end, not putting her to sleep, laying her down or putting pressure on her stomach just after eating, and using a product containing bicarbonates to cut down any excess acid in her belly after feeds. This product also has anise oil in it which was mentioned as perhaps helping, and fennel oil which likewise studies have shown help.

    So what worked? All or none, at 12 weeks she is a new baby, lovely, smiling, happy, but she may merely have grown out of it. I’m so glad it’s finally over because it was very hard on her and us as well.

    I mention all these things because we were desperate to be doing everything to help we possible could and I’m sure other parents will also want to know everything they might try. But hang in there you will get through it and your baby will have a closer bond with you for all the care and time (and tears) you gave them.

  2. Avatar

    I will never be able to forget those months when our baby had colic!

    There were a few methods which helped us survive her colic:

    1) I was a breastfeeder, so I tried to deal with the issue by modifying my own diet. There was a tea by a company called “Traditional Medicinals” – Mother’s Milk Tea. Something about the ingredients really had a positive impact on my fussy baby. The tea also had the side benefits of helping relax Mom (me!) so that the let-down process was improved, as well as the volume of milk produced.

    2) In addition to the strategy of improving my diet, our doctor showed us a way of holding our baby which we dubbed “the crotch hold.”

    Mom or Dad places the baby on their arm with the baby’s head facing toward their hand. Baby’s tummy is then lying along the arm, while baby’s legs are straddling the bicep, or upper arm. Mom or Dad then proceed to go about their daily routine one-handed, while baby calms down because s/he is receiving warmth and massage along the tummy area.

    3) As a last resort, we would play music and wear a groove in the floor while utilizing the crotch hold. For some reason, The Beatles song “Come Together,” was good at distracting our baby from her own howls.

    We also developed a shameless strategy in which we invited one of our single friends over for a home-cooked dinner; we then showed them the crotch hold, and handed them the howling baby so that they could pay for their dinner by deepening the groove we had worn in the living room floor walking baby back and forth.

    The only thing about this strategy is that you have to make sure that your single friends don’t know each other, or the ploy will only work one time.

    Just remember, this too shall pass. You’ll remember these days fondly in the future when you and your partner are sitting up at 1:30 a.m. frantically wondering why your “baby” isn’t answering their cell phone.

  3. Avatar

    My son was born 37 weeks and spent 7 days in the NICU where he was a perfectly normal sleepy and hungry baby.

    Soon after bringing him home I noticed that he would begin to cry and there was no reason. He was full, dry, and warm but he would cry and cry.

    Being a new mom I thought I was doing something wrong that was making him this way.

    It was even tougher at night when I was exhausted and he would cry non stop and my boyfriend works so he would have a hard time getting up, if he got up at all, to help.

    I began to notice that I was tired, irritable, angry, and depressed all the time. I would look at my son and actually be infuriated that he was crying again and my pediatrician gave me no hope saying, ” it’ll get better by 4 months.”

    FOUR MONTHS!

    Finally, I was so exhausted I moved back in with my parents and between 3 of us, it wasn’t so bad.

    We found tricks like walking him, singing, swaddling, carrying him on his stomach instead of his back, and rocking him.

    Then came the answer I had been praying for. I saw a different pediatrician who told me he thought my baby might just have acid reflux.

    He gave me a prescription for Zantac which my son takes twice a day and like magic, the crying subsided.

    Don’t get me wrong he still cries but not with the intensity like before.

    We also began burping more frequently during feedings to alleviate his gas pains and it’s like I have a brand new baby. Now I’m trying to teach him to fall asleep without having to be in anyone’s arms.

    Since he spent the first 3 months sleeping in peoples arms now he has trouble being laid down to sleep but we’re working at it and living back with my boyfriend.

    It is still hard and he’s not quite sleeping through the night but that’s our next thing on the list to work on.

    Hang in there everyone! It can and will get better.

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Thank you so much, Joy!

      I hear quite often about children who are diagnosed reflux but only after having been diagnosed colicky for a while. Just like your “terrible” son.

      Great that you didn’t give up, but got a second opinion!

      Good luck with your beautiful little boy!

  4. Avatar

    Our baby is now 2 months old she suffers constantly from what our doc and specialist called colic; pain and discomfort passing wind and bowel movements, pulling legs to chest and hands closed and pushing them into her face pain crying and deep screaming when it really hurts.

    The specialist got her poo tested and the result was normal. But she is not. We have it very bad at about 5 pm till 8.30 pm.

    I have 2 days where she will sleep in the day with no pains but then it starts all over again she would wake up from a deep sleep scream?

    I thought it was from not doing a poo as we have bowel problems too but she some times still wakes up screaming with an empty bowel. She is on formula and have tried 6 different ones and have tried drops.

    I don’t know what else to do?

    1. Avatar

      Hi,
      My son is 3 months old now. He was very sick when he was born and had to stay at sick kids for a month.

      We came home when he was 1 month and he cried for almost 12 to 14 hours every day. My doctor told me he had colic.

      I give him Woodwards gripe water oval drops only when he is very upset. Massaging his tummy with olive oil helps, swaddle him, hold him upright keep tapping his back gently and put very soothing music on. That really helps.

      If u give ur baby bath and feed him swaddle him and hold him upright to burp before he goes to bed he will sleep through the night. My son sleeps for about 10 hours at night and only gets up once to feed. Never feed ur baby and bath him.

      My doctor suggested Similac lactose free formula that I think helped a lot and if u are breast feeding don’t drink milk.

      🙂 I hope it helps

    2. Avatar

      I was lucky with my twin girls, but not so lucky with my son. My son was born 4 years after my daughters. He was healthy when he was born, but when he was 10 weeks old, he developed colic.

      It was the longest 12 weeks I have ever experienced. After we could think past all of the headache’s and few nights of no sleep, we began to notice a different cry. This cry sounded different and was mostly after meals. We took our son to the doctor and discovered that he had colic.

      I had read about many different types of massages that would help to soothe a colicky baby. My husband and I would massage him after ever feeding and this did help the situation, but it didn’t make the situation go away right away.

      I must say this was a very hard time on our whole family, but after 12 weeks it slowly went away. It takes lots of love!

  5. Avatar

    Our baby girl has been suffering from colic since she was 3 weeks old. Our baby was not breast fed but was bottle fed with formula. We believe the bottles and formula gave the baby colic. We tried to change the bottle but that did not work.

    Finally, we listened to my mother and father about a CUBAN remedy. The remedy was to boil some drinking water and once it starts to boil put in some Star Anise. You could usually find it in a the Latino section of the market where all the teas and dry herbs are at.

    Leave the star anise in the water for about 5min the drain the water through a strainer. Let the water cool down a bit.

    Our baby is drinking 4oz. So what we do is split it in half (2oz of water with anise and 2 oz baby formula).

    TRUST ME THIS HAS WORKED SO MUCH FOR US. She no longer cry’s from COLIC. I would like to know if this remedy worked on your baby as it has on ours?

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Hi Albert,

      Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences with a remedy that helped your baby. Actually, I am not surprised, because star anise, just as “regular” anise is a herb known to help bloated stomachs as is actually also know to help for infant colic.

      However, back in 2003 and 2004, there was some research that found that a number of babies as well as adults that had used herbal tea with star anise had shown signs of intoxication, such as jitteriness, hyperexcitability, nystagmus, vomiting, myoclonic movements, and seizures.

      Therefore, the FDA recommended that star anise should NOT be used to treat infant colic.

      The conclusions from the research was that it might be so that these teas not only included Chinese star anise, which is safe, but also Japanese star anise, which does contain some toxins.

      On the other hand, it could not be excluded that the infants has actually been poisoned by the Chinese star anise.

      You can read about one of the studies on infant colic and star anise here.

      Due to this, FDA recommends against using star anise for colic.

      However, there is another related herb that you can try – anise. Use 1 teaspoon of anise seeds in one cup of water. Boil for a few minutes, cool down and feed to your baby 1 or 2 tea spoons with every meal.

      From what I’ve read, anise is considered completely safe.

      Sorry if I let you down, Albert, but I thought this information was important to provide!

      Paula

  6. Avatar

    When my second was just 6 months old we were thrown into that stress filled role of “parents of a baby with colic”. I honestly don’t think our son slept more than a hour at a time – ever. We never got any rest and neither did he. Our first child had been easy – now we were adapting to a baby that cried all the time and just never seemed happy no matter what we did. Multiple doctors appointments brought us a diagnosis – colic – but no relief or care.

    Then a neighbor suggested I take our son to a chiropractor for a checkup. She insisted that if the baby needed a spinal alignment, it could be causing the problem. She swore it had worked for a friend of hers. I was skeptical so I asked for the friends number and, through her, the parents of the baby in the story. Sure enough, they swore it worked. I got the doctors number and called.

    We took our son in for a check up, the chiropractor identified a spinal misalignment in the upper back and adjusted our son. He fell asleep on the way home and slept for 4 hours. A record! He seemed much better when he woke up. We took him back a few days later for another check up and adjustment and that was the end of his colic. It was amazing.

    We were so thankful for the care he received, we refer all our friends to that chiropractor now.

    1. Avatar

      I have an almost 6 week old baby who, I think, has colic. I don’t see a chiropractor myself but believe they help with many things.

      I just want a happy baby! I have him on a gentle formula, a special “proven to reduce colic” bottle, I swaddle him, rock him, white noise, etc. He sleeps ok at night but during the day he just doesn’t seem happy.

      One thing I noticed is that when I pick him up, he cries like I’m hurting him… maybe this misalignment thing?? I just don’t know!

      What would I tell a chiropractor to look for or try if I were to do this?

      1. Paula

        Leslie, how wonderful that your baby was helped by the spinal alignment! Actually research is quite conflicting on whether this treatment may help children with colic or not. Several studies do find some relief, but not for all children – which for me isn’t surprising at all, since I believe colic can be caused by different underlying problems.

        Interestingly, a research study, published in May 2011, did find chiropractic treatment a viable option for babies with colic. You find the article among the reference links above.

        So, MommyofcolickyQuin, why not give it a try? If you can find a respectable chiropractor who is used to treating infants, the treatment will be no worse than ineffective and may actually cure your baby, or at least mitigate the severity of the colic.

        On what to tell the chiropractor; describe your baby’s problems. The best is if you can find a chiropractor who has treated infants with colic before, or at least infants in general. I believe a good chiropractor will be able to tell you what may be the problem if examining your baby.

        Good luck!

    2. Avatar

      We have a similar good experience!

      Right at 4 weeks old our son started wailing every night. Couldn’t get him comfortable, and all signs were pointing to colic. I took him to the pediatrician yesterday morning and after an examination the doctor told me that ‘sometimes their backs are out of alignment’ and adjusted our baby.

      After his initial crying from the shock of it he quieted right down and fell asleep. He actually slept through the majority of the day. That night, once he was swaddled up tight and warm, he fell asleep and didn’t give us any problems. I actually got 5 hours of sleep last night!!

      We go back on Wednesday to have a check up and possible adjustment again – but so far, fingers crossed, it worked for us as well!

      1. Paula

        Wonderful, Jennifer, and thank you so much for taking the time to share. I really hope the spinal alignment helps long-term for your son, so the colic tendencies are now gone for good.

        Sweet dreams 😉

  7. Avatar

    I have a 2 year old son and a 3 wk old baby girl who both have had and are experiencing colic. My son had a blood disorder when he was born but went away within 1 week. As soon as I brought him home I was so happy until he started having long periods of crying where no matter what I did, his father, grandmother, etc did, nothing worked.

    I had a lot of feelings of guilt like I was a bad mother, because it was very frustrating to not be able to calm my child. I also was getting no sleep because not only do colic babies have a lot of crying spells, but they don’t sleep frequent as normal babies do or for long periods of time.

    When my son was 2 months old, his pediatrician finally said try using Similac Alimentum (very expensive btw). It was a miracle for us because that seemed to do the trick for the most part, plus buying bottles that helped with gas.

    My son, who is 2 today is normal and a great and very happy toddler.

    I also have a 3 wk old newborn, who is also showing similar symptoms of colic. Not as bad as my son was… My daughter still seems to cringe when laying down like she is in pain, has a lot of gas, and mostly has her crying spells at night (where as my son cried all day and night). So we haven’t found a treatment for her quite yet but I’m taking her to the doctor tomorrow to ask what they think about me putting her on Alimentum as well. (Be careful when switching formula since it may cause gas or bowel movement problems as well)

    The only advice I can give to a parent is to definitely have a good support system (grandparent, husband, sister etc) because you NEED to have a break or you’ll go crazy and remember this WILL go away!

    You’re not a bad parent.

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience with colic in babies and for the tip to switch to Similac Alimentum.

      Did your baby’s doctor discuss protein sensitivity with you? Many babies that are helped by Alimentum are actually sensitive to milk protein. In Alimentum, these proteins are broken down into such tiny pieces that even babies that are allergic to cow’s milk protein can digest them without a problem.

      The tendency to develop allergy is often hereditary, so if some kinds of allergy run in your family, it wouldn’t be too strange if both of your children develop it too.

      Another interesting possible cause of infant colic is acid reflux. Babies with acid reflux are in pain since the stomach fluid travels back up into their throat. Acid reflux is more common in some families than in others and hence may also have a hereditary component to it.

      A brilliant book that discusses both milk allergy and reflux and their connections to colic is Colic Solved: The Essential Guide to Infant Reflux and the Care of Your Crying, Difficult-to- Soothe Baby (Link to Amazon, where you can read more about the book.) Highly recommended to anyone who doesn’t want to settle with just enduring their baby’s crying.

      Hope this helps,

      Paula

  8. Avatar

    My son had colic for 4 1/2 months. He cried day and night and we did not sleep. Instead, I walked the floor with him trying my best to offer what comfort I could. We did not sleep much and when we did it was with my son sleeping on my chest with me in the middle of my bed with pillows stacked on both sides to prevent any falls. I knew it was not the ideal way for either of us to sleep, but it was the only way we got ANY! If your baby has colic there will be moments when you feel you can’t go on and life can start to seem unfair, but it will get better. Just hang on to that and keep going for the sake of your child. My son is now a happy and healthy ten month old that is walking and talking up a storm. Bless all who have this issue with their child. I was more exhausted with this than when I was working full time job that required travel and going to college taking double full time schedule. Peace be with you and know that your child is
    a gift and cherish even these hardest of times for they will make you appreciate the good times when they come.

  9. Avatar

    I was living a nightmare with my colicky baby! It was just so sad to see my daughter in pain not only in the evenings but practically ALL DAY! Nothing would settle her and I tried absolutely everything so just ended up crying with her because I felt so helpless and alone with this problem. I had no sleep and neither did she. It was the hardest, most stressful thing I’ve ever been through. I would rather go through labour pain again than see my baby suffer the way she did with severe colic and the doctors just kept telling me she will grow out of it.. all I wanted was a cure!

    Anyway at the time it feels like a lifetime of suffering but colic really does go away. For us, it gradually started getting better at 4 months! 🙂

    All you need is patience remember it is not your baby’s fault she / he’s in pain… I could never get angry at her… my sympathy and love for my daughter helped me get through it and now she’s a healthy happy 9 month old 🙂

    If I managed to get through colic almost 24 hours a day for 4 whole months TRUST ME so can you xx

Leave a Reply