Colic in the Breastfed Baby

Newborn baby crying
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Colic. The word strikes fear in the hearts of every parent. Colic is the crying of a baby who is, by all accounts healthy, well-fed, and not otherwise in distress. Typically this starts after the first few weeks of life after the parents think they've gotten to know baby. It can start suddenly and without warning. 

The baby cries, even when held, walked, rocked, fed, etc. It can last for long periods of time without a break.

This can be incredibly frustrating for both parents and providers. It is not considered colic if the baby is not developmentally growing appropriately, other causes are looked for in those instances. Most of the cases of colic occur later in the day. Some start in the early evening, while others do not start until bedtime.

One of the hardest parts about colic is that there isn't a lot you can do about it. You can keep you and baby as comfortable as possible. Typically colic will disappear around three months of age. That may sound fairly short, but it can be the longest period of time in your life. Recruiting help from friends, family, and even a postpartum doula can be very beneficial.

Be leery of advice from well-meaning friends and family that involve medications or weird treatments. There is no proof that any work and some might be dangerous. Talk to your doctor or practitioner before beginning anything that sounds too good to be true.

That said, there are certainly some things to try:

  • Baby wearing. Some babies will cry less or for shorter periods when held.
  • Noise. Some babies really respond to noises like white noise, music, and other sounds. Experiment, it might be the vacuum cleaner!
  • Motion. Some babies like swings or bouncies, others like the car. Do what works for your baby.
  • Swaddling. If your baby responds well to swaddling, you should try it. Be sure to follow the safe swaddle rules.
  • Feeding. Be sure to feed the baby from both breasts. You might also be evaluated for overactive letdown. Sometimes a pediatrician might suggest it's a food allergy from mom. Get the help of a knowledgeable lactation consultant before doing an elimination diet. Remember, formula, no matter what the advertising says, is usually not going to help and in many cases may make new problems.

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