NHS website

Colic

Colic is when a baby cries a lot but there's no obvious cause. It's a common problem that should get better on its own. But call NHS 111 or see a GP if you're worried.

23 January 2019

Introduction

Colic is when a baby cries a lot but there's no obvious cause. It's a common problem that should get better on its own. But call NHS 111 or see a GP if you're worried.

Check if your baby has colic

All babies cry, but your baby may have colic if they cry more than 3 hours a day, 3 days a week for at least 1 week.

They may cry more often in the afternoon and evening.

It may also be colic if:

  • it's hard to soothe or settle your baby
  • they clench their fists
  • they go red in the face
  • they bring their knees up to their tummy or arch their back
  • their tummy rumbles or they're very windy

It can start when a baby is a few weeks old. It usually stops by the time they're 6 months old.

Things you can try to soothe your baby

Your baby doesn't usually need to see a doctor if they have colic. Speak to your health visitor for advice and support.

Health visitors and doctors will usually advise you to:

  • hold or cuddle your baby when they're crying a lot
  • sit or hold your baby upright during feeding to stop them swallowing air
  • wind your baby after feeds
  • gently rock your baby over your shoulder
  • gently rock your baby in their Moses basket or crib, or push them in their pram
  • bath your baby in a warm bath
  • have some gentle white noise like the radio or TV in the background to distract them
  • keep feeding your baby as usual

Other things you may hear about include:

  • anti-colic drops and herbal and probiotic supplements
  • changes to your diet if you're breastfeeding
  • applying gentle pressure to your baby's spine (spinal manipulation) or skull (cranial osteopathy)

But there's very little evidence these things work. Speak to your health visitor for further advice.

Call NHS 111 or see a GP if:

  • you're worried about your baby
  • nothing seems to be working
  • you're finding it hard to cope
  • your baby is older than 4 months and still seems to have symptoms of colic

A GP will check for possible causes of your baby's crying.

Go to A&E or call 999 if:

  • your baby has a weak or high-pitched cry
  • your baby's cry doesn't sound like their normal cry

You know better than anyone else what your child is usually like. Trust your instincts if you think something is seriously wrong, particularly if they have other worrying symptoms.

Find your nearest A&E ↗

How to cope if you have a colicky baby

Looking after a colicky baby can be upsetting, but it's usually nothing to worry about and will pass with time.

Ask for support:

  • from other parents, family or friends
  • by calling the Cry-sis helpline ↗ on 0845 122 8669 (9am to 10pm, 7 days a week)
  • from your health visitor, by calling NHS 111 or seeing a GP

Causes of colic

It's not known exactly what causes some babies to get colic. But it may be because babies find it harder to digest food when they're young.

Or they may be crying because they have problems with food allergies such as cows' milk allergy ↗.