Crying baby ? Treat colic in your newborn…

The 3rd in a 6 article series by Jane Barry, registered nurse, mid-wife and parent. Her previous article discussed early childhood development, and when to worry.


crying baby

Do you have a crying baby? Well if you have a newborn – probably! Colic is a term used to describe unsettled behaviour in a newborn child.  Rather than being a medical diagnosis relating to pathology, colic covers a range of symptoms which babies in the newborn to three month age group frequently display.


It is important to differentiate normal baby crying from crying which may indicate illness. Babies with colicky symptoms tend to be healthy, fit and thriving in all respects with no signs of being unwell.


Babies who are sick may have a temperature, a change from their normal feeding and sleeping patterns or have a rash, vomiting or diarrhoea.


Colicky Newborn – The Symptoms

  • Crying, fussing, irritability and restlessness [i]Tired baby
  • Unpredictability of sleeping and feeding
  • Peaks of crying, particularly in the late afternoon and evening
  • Unexplained crying which cannot be attributed to any other cause
  • Resistant to soothing techniques
  • Variation from day to day – some days there is less crying than others
  • Pulling up the legs and facial grimacing as if the baby appears to be in pain
  • Straining and passing wind

Facts about Colic

  • Colic represents a transient phase in a newborn baby’s development. As the nervous system matures there is better regulation of feeding, sleep and stimulation which leads to more settled behaviour [ii]
  • Generally starts from two weeks and continues until around three months of age
  • There is usually a gradual decrease in crying from around nine weeks of age
  • Can peak in the six to eight week age group. In premature babies this age pattern may be slightly different
  • Time, gut maturity, improved feeding and digestion over time all have a positive effect on colic symptoms
  • Maternal stress does not cause colic. It’s normal for mothers and fathers to feel anxious when their baby is crying
  • Changing the breastfeeding mother’s diet does not usually have a beneficial effect

Calm Colic – Ways to…. STOP THE CRYING

feeling better

  • Gentle rocking, swaying and cuddling. A rocking chair can be soothing
  • Singing, humming or repeatedly saying “shshsh” can help
  • Swaddling or wrapping in a muslin or light cotton wrap
  • Extra feeds, particularly top-up breastfeeds
  • A nappy change
  • Deep, warm baths follow with an infant massage on the tummy
  • Bicycling and drawing up your baby’s legs towards their tummy
  • Avoiding overtiredness. Look for your baby’s tired signs and give them the opportunity to sleep
  • Offer a dummy/ pacifier or encourage your baby to suck on their fists or a thumb
  • White noise in the background, such as a radio, vacuum cleaner, washing machine or a fan
  • Push your baby in their pram or place them in a sling and go for a walk
  • Go for a ride in the car

New Parents – What’s Important to Remember

  • It is impossible to spoil a baby byDad rocking baby picking them up and offering comfort
  • Babies do not manipulate their parents or deliberately try to make their life hard
  • Parents are most effective when they work together and support each other
  • We are not meant to parent in isolation. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it
  • You are the expert in your own baby’s care. Trust your own judgement
  • Work on staying calm and confident when your baby is distressed
  • There are generally better days ahead

New Parents – Where to Get Help

  • Your partner, family, friends and neighbours
  • Parents groups, playgroup and on-line support forums
  • Your General Practioner, Paediatrician and Child Health Nurse
  • The Australian Breastfeeding Association
  • The Child and Maternal Health Telephone Support Service in your own state.

N.B. Sometimes it becomes essential to have a little break from the crying. Don’t be afraid to ask another trusted adult for support.


[ii] Oberklaid, F. and Kaminsky, L. (2006). Your Child’s Health: The essential Companion for Every Australian Home. Hardie Grant Books


Jane Barry is a registered nurse, mid-wife, parent and has been employed in community health, specifically early parenting for over 25 years. The next article will cover Immunisation. This article was written exclusively for

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