What you need to know

  • Colic is crying that can last for several hours without an obvious reason. 
  • It can be difficult to soothe a baby with colic, but there are a few tips below to try to help your little one.
  • It's challenging for you and your whānau to care for a baby with colic, and it's important to take a break if you're feeling frustrated or angry.
  • Never shake your baby as it can lead to permanent brain damage or death (known as shaken baby syndrome).

What is colic?

Colic is crying that can last for several hours without an obvious reason. Colic won’t harm your baby or cause any long-term health issues, and most babies outgrow it after 16 weeks. 

It is common for babies to cry and have unsettled times. Some babies cry for longer periods and are more unsettled than others, and this is normal.  

Symptoms

Your baby may be suffering from colic if they:

  • cry for several hours for no reason (they aren’t hungry, nappy is clean and dry, and you’ve tried cuddling them)
  • clench their fists
  • draw their knees up and are hard to comfort.

Crying often occurs in the late afternoon or early evening. It may stop after your baby has a poo, passes gas, or they may continue crying until they fall asleep. They may seem okay for a while and then start crying again – usually at the same time each day or night.

How to help your baby

It can be difficult to soothe a baby with colic, but there are a few things you can try to help calm your little one:

  • hold your baby upright for feeds and burp them afterwards
  • if your baby is breastfed and seems worse after mum eats certain foods, talk to your Plunket nurse, or other Well Child provider
  • if your baby is bottle-fed, check you are preparing it correctly
  • hold your baby while they are crying and talk to them with a soothing voice
  • play soothing music
  • keep the lights dimmed
  • babies like to move so try gentle swaying, push them in a pram, or use a front pack to carry your baby while you do things around the house
  • give your baby a warm bath or a gentle stomach rub.

Caring for yourself

Caring for a baby suffering from colic can be exhausting and hard on both you and your whānau.

Sometimes your baby’s crying may really get to you. You may feel frustrated, helpless or angry – this is normal and it’s important to take a break if this happens.

If you are feeling frustrated, stressed or overwhelmed with your baby’s crying: 

  • give your baby to a trusted whānau member of friend, or put them down in a safe space for a few minutes to take a break
  • try to relax with a cup of tea, a book, or calming music
  • get some fresh air outside to help you and your baby, try going for a walk with the pram
  • call a trusted whānau member or friend, or PlunketLine.

Remember to never shake your baby as it can lead to permanent brain damage or death (known as shaken baby syndrome).

When to visit a doctor

Talk to your Plunket nurse, call PlunketLine, or your doctor's office if your baby:

  • isn't feeding well
  • doesn't settle or continues to cry for long periods
  • has a different cry than normal. A louder, more urgent or high-pitched cry could be a sign of a more serious illness.

Or if you:

  • aren't coping well with the crying
  • feel anxious or depressed
  • feel your baby's crying has an impact on how you feel about them
  • feel the crying is affecting your relationship with your partner.
Colic

Purple Crying

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The Period of PURPLE Crying program aims to prevent the shaking and abuse of infants.

Need free support or advice?

Call PlunketLine 24/7 on 0800 933 922