What is colic and how can I manage it?

Your one-month-old begins to cry. This is nothing new, it happens frequently. It’s simply how she lets you know she needs you. It’s not like she has any other way of communicating. Talking is still some time away, smoke signals are beyond them and if you’ve been following current trends, they can’t text because screen time is not allowed. So you do what you always do: you check and change their nappy, feed them and you cuddle them. But for some reason, none of it helps.

Seconds turn to minutes, those minutes become a worrisome half-an-hour and before you know it, it feels like it’s been days since your baby has done anything but cry. Yet your watch says it’s been maybe an hour. Every so often the crying escalates to an unbearable wail. Your child turns red, has clenched fists and flailing legs. After a while, just as suddenly as it started it just stops. By now you’ve tried Googling “1-month old doesn’t stop crying” with one hand while trying to console her with the other, and if you’re lucky you may have had a chance to glance at the screen to see some kind of search result, including the dreaded word: colic.


Colic is a blanket term used to describe when babies between one and three months of age, who are perfectly healthy, cry for extended periods of time. Medical professionals use a rule of threes as their guideline to whether a crying baby has colic:

  • Totals three or more hours a day
  • Happens three or more days in a week
  • Persists for three or more weeks

Be aware though that some health conditions can present in the same way colic does, so if you have any reason to think that there might be an underlying issue, consult a doctor.

What can I do about it?

Since colic has no clear cause, there is no single, proven treatment for it. The good news is that by four months of age it will improve, so you might have to simply wait it out. The best thing you can do is to try and soothe your baby by:

  • Feeding them
  • Holding them
  • Skin to skin bonding (holding them with their bare skin against your bare skin)
  • Taking them for a car ride
  • Swaddling
  • White noise
  • Using a dummy/pacifier

Many of these soothing methods can be hit and miss in their success, so if they don’t work that does not necessarily mean you’re doing something wrong. More than anything else, trust your instincts as a parent and know that as frustrating as the seemingly endless crying may be, sooner or later it will relent.

Colic can be extremely testing for new parents, so be sure to also exercise self-care when confronted by it. Getting upset or overwhelmed when your baby cries this way does not make you a bad parent. It is OK for you to put your child in a crib or playpen for a few minutes while you compose yourself. The calmer you remain through a colicky spell, the better you’ll be able to soothe and eventually calm your baby.

Sometimes the best any parent can do is to comfort their child – not necessarily to bring the crying to a stop – but simply to provide them with the security of knowing that cry as they may, you are still there for them. – Jan de Lange


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