What Is Colic, the Causes and Treatment Options

What it is, how to identify it and some tips to help alleviate the issue.



Colic is when a baby cries for several hours each day, without an obvious reason. It’s normal for all babies to cry and have times of being unsettled, but colic is when their crying is frequent, more prolonged and without cause (they aren’t hungry or tired, and don’t need a nappy change). While babies with colic can be especially difficult to soothe or settle, having colic isn’t considered harmful to your pēpi and won’t cause them any long-term health issues.



If your baby does the following, they may have colic:

  • They cry for several hours each day without an obvious reason as to why (they aren’t hungry or tired, and don’t need a nappy change).
  • They clench their fists.
  • They draw their knees up to their tummy.

If your baby has a different cry than usual (louder, high-pitched and more persistent), book in to see your doctor as soon as possible as this can be a sign of a serious illness.


The exact cause of colic is unknown but there are some theories of what may contribute to it (although these haven’t been proven), such as:

  • Abdominal pain/discomfort due to trapped wind or indigestion.
  • Gut/digestive system hasn’t fully developed yet.
  • Out of balance gut microbiome.
  • Food allergies or intolerances.



Taking care of a baby with colic can make for a challenging time for a parent or caregiver as it can be difficult to console your pēpi. Here are some tips that may help:

  • Hold your baby in an upright position when feeding. See our article on Breastfeeding Positions for advice on how to do a laid-back hold.
  • Burp your baby frequently during each feed, especially when switching between sides.
  • If your baby’s colic seems worse after you’ve eaten certain foods, particularly common allergens, talk to your LMC, Well Child Tamariki Ora nurse or GP about eliminating the food/s from your diet for a couple of weeks to see if their condition improves.
  • Carry your baby in a front pack, wrap or baby carrier to help settle them to sleep.
  • Embrace skin-to-skin cuddles.
  • Give your baby a warm, relaxing bath.
  • Gently rub your baby’s stomach or bicycle their legs to relieve gas and wind.



Colic usually begins when a baby is around two weeks old. The intense and prolonged crying episodes commonly occur in the late afternoon or early evening and may ease after your baby has gone poo, passed gas, or fallen asleep from crying. Most babies will outgrow colic by the time they are 16 weeks.

If your baby is crying and you’re finding it upsetting, frustrating or overwhelming, know that it’s normal to feel this way; having a baby with colic can be extremely difficult to manage. It’s okay to put your baby down somewhere safe, walk away, and take some deep breaths while you have a break. It is never, ever okay to shake or hit a baby. If your baby keeps crying and it’s becoming stressful for you, phone a friend or someone in your whānau for support, or call PlunketLine on 0800 933 922 for free advice.

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