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Why I Don’t Believe in Colic

Why I Don’t Believe in Colic

Colic is such a complex area of baby development and something I’ve come to learn more about in the past 4-5 years and having my own children. Controversially: I don’t believe in colic. This may sound a bit crazy but I genuinely believe that colic is down to something rather than just a definition or general term for an ‘unhappy baby’.

What is the definition of Colic?

It is defined as “when your baby cries a lot but there is no obvious cause” on the NHS website. If you look at alternative definitions you’ll also see things like “three hours of crying more than once a day for week” or “a baby cries for no apparent reason and you’ve tried everything but it’s not improving”. We are told this is what Colic is and it’s been around for generations. Despite these definitions, there is no science to prove them.

Crying, for me, is a means of communication.

So if your baby seems unhappy – perhaps they’re cold, hungry or tired – they will cry. Babies will give out different cries for different reasons but, with colic, we don’t know the reason for their cry. I would definitely argue that crying is some form of communication and that your baby is always trying to tell you something. For me, there is always a cause and it’s he down to you, as parents, to try and understand what the cause of that colic cry could be.

However, although we know so much more about our children these days and their development, we are still unable to really narrow down what a colic cry could be and, therefore, it’s very difficult as a parent of a new baby to get the right information on how to get to the bottom of your baby’s colic.

As a Nanny, I would go along with a diagnosis of colic in the early days of my career because this is what I was taught. At this time, there was little information out there to explain colic. However, as my career grow and I started consulting, I started to understand for myself that – if a baby is crying for hours on end on a regular basis then there is something going on for that baby. They are not just crying because they’re little.

The top causes of “colic” in my opinion

  1. Baby has wind: in some antenatal courses you’ll be shown how to wind a baby but I think the opinion on this, even now, is quite mixed and, therefore, provides mixed signals to new parents. There is also a myth that breastfed babies don’t need to be winded – they absolutely do! Wind cannot always be cleared by a baby on their own and they need help to clear it. If you’ve got a burp up after a feed and then baby goes on to cry for an hour or two you may believe that they can’t have wind because they burped; but the reality is they might have lots of tiny bubbles of air in their tummies and they need more help to get them out. If you wind during the feed this will help with regular burping and then after, too, but don’t stop there. Depending on your baby’s awake window, you will need to wind them after they’ve been awake for a little while and, also, before they go down for their nap, too. Wind can get stuck and start to come up at different times, not necessarily after or during a feed. There is no set amount of burps that you should get from your baby but you should keep winding them to help them feel comfortable and sleep well.
  2. Baby is hungry: colic behaviour is so often accepted and so many parents I work with feel that they have to cope with a crying baby for hours on end until they grow out of it between 10 and 13 weeks. If your baby is crying for hours in the evening I would look at feeding and seeing if that baby is hungry. If you’re breastfeeding, your milk supply can be a little bit lower, which can mean that baby is a little bit hungry and is crying because they’re both tired and hungry. This could show as cluster feeding but some babies give up on this and just cry and cry and cry, then they won’t go on the breast properly – which exacerbates the problem! One of the things you could try in this instance is making sure your baby is totally full and see if that makes a difference. If you find this to be the case you can start to unravel the feeding with power-pumping to increase milk supply, herbal supplements, top up with a bottle – whatever works for you. If you need more specific support on these topics, please click here for my 1-1s.
  3. Baby is overtired – I would say that 60-70% of my 1-1 clients with unhappy newborns (up to around 13 weeks) who have lots of crying in the evenings are struggling because that baby is overtired. If your baby is overtired they are going to cry lots! If they’re crying lots you might be told by well-meaning friends and family “it’s colic, they’ll grow out of it!” I would really encourage you to look at your baby’s awake windows (an hour maximum for a newborn); if they’re awake over their awake window then they cry, take in lots of wind and things can get worse from there. By looking at how long your baby is awake for, you can help them to settle by ensuring that they are falling asleep at the appropriate time.
  4. Baby’s gut – I really hope that, over time, parents receive more support with research on how a baby’s gut develops. At the moment, we don’t have the science to prove it but I am a firm believer that what Mum eats – when breastfeeding – can affect their baby’s gut. Some babies struggle with certain food groups that pass through a Mother’s milk or that are in their formula milk. If you have ticked off the 3 points above and baby is still crying, I’d consider whether your baby is struggling to digest something that is in their milk. I would never encourage you to go away and cut out food groups but it might be worth looking for someone who could support you around this topic.
  5. Reflux – I know that this is a controversial area but I also know that there is definite evidence in tiny babies of reflux being masked as colic, whether it is silent or not. It can be missed because baby might be putting on weight or generally well otherwise which, for me, is really frustrating. Reflux is basically regurgitating of milk – it doesn’t have to be vomiting. You actually wouldn’t see a huge amount when your baby is doing it, sometimes they’ll cry and sometimes they will appear to be smiley and happy! It can be so hard to know if you don’t know what to look for. This is a specialist area of mine that I support parents with and, again, if you’ve ticked all of the boxes above and are still struggling with colicky symptoms, please do look into my 1-1 services and I can support you.

Ask yourself if you are happy to wait until baby grows out of their colic symptoms or would you rather find the root cause of it? I understand that there is a lot of information out there and it can be really overwhelming. If you feel like you would like more support, do take a look at my 1-1 support packages.


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