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Could it be colic or reflux?

This week we’ve been talking about coping with a crying baby.

We’ve looked at why babies cry and what to do to soothe them and help. We’ve listed some resources, websites and information you can look at to help you. 

But what if the crying still doesn’t stop?

Today let’s think about colic and reflux: two common reasons for seemingly unexplained crying.


  • If your baby cries a lot and you don’t know why
  • If it seems like your baby can’t be soothed and the crying feels most common in the evenings
  • If you see your baby looking quite angry and red in the face
  • If they bring their knees up to their chest, or arch their back when you hold them

…your baby may have colic.

But don’t be concerned!

Colic is quite normal in newborns and generally starts when your baby is around 2 weeks old. It tends to go away by 6 months but in those weeks where your baby is so unsettled, it can be really hard to know how to soothe them.

We don’t fully understand the reasons why a baby suffers with colic, but we do know it makes no difference if they are bottle fed or breastfed. We also know that it doesn’t cause any issues growing up. 

How can you help with colic?

It’s important to wind a baby regularly anyway, but even more so if they suffer with colic. You know yourself that if you’ve had a big meal, you can feel a bit uncomfortable. It’s the same for a baby. Their tummies are so small, it doesn’t take an awful lot of milk to fill them up and add bubbles of wind to their tummies too…!

By regular and frequent winding throughout the day and night, you’re preventing a build-up of excess gas. Try changing your winding position too as sometimes the change of direction – such as from being upright by your shoulders, to laying across your knees – may help provide relief and comfort.

You’re probably eager to find a solution, and you might see that there are many different anti-colic drops or herbal remedies as well as anti-colic formula in the shops. Or you might hear about magic remedies from friends. But there’s very little evidence that anything like this can make a difference.

Really, the only thing that can help with colic is to ride it out. Keep yourself and your baby as relaxed as possible. Hold your baby when they’re crying. Realise that it’s just another phase your baby is going through and time, patience and nurturing will make the difference. It will pass.


First off, reflux is very common and usually starts before your baby turns 8 weeks old. It’s when a baby brings up milk during or after feeding.

You may wonder why some babies get reflux and others don’t – well it’s because of muscle development. The muscles at the bottom of the oesophagus (food pipe) aren’t fully developed and they allow the milk to leak out or travel back up the pipe.

You may see signs such as:

  • Bringing up milk during or after a feed. Sometimes this can be quite forceful and may cover you!
  • Coughing during a feed or suffering from frequent hiccupping sessions.
  • Arching their back or turning away from feeding.
  • Being restless and irritable whilst feeding.
  • Slow weight gain.

But of course, the crying…. You will find your baby cries and does not settle until they are absolutely exhausted (and you too!)

Your baby may have these signs and not have reflux. Or they may have reflux with one or all of the symptoms – unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast way to diagnose reflux.

So how can we help reflux?

  • Feed your baby as upright as possible, and keep them upright after feeding.
  • Wind them regularly during and after a feed.
  • Take the time to feed them slowly.
  • Feeding little and often may be ideal for your baby.

Reflux in babies does usually go away on its own. But if you’re struggling with some of these symptoms, particularly with weight gain, do contact your GP and they may be able to make a diagnosis and prescribe something for you. If you can keep a bit of a log of how often these symptoms occur, this may help your GP to correctly diagnose treatment.

If you need more help

If you feel that you may lose control, it’s always okay to put your baby down in a safe place such as their cot, and take a five minute breather, or ask someone in your house to take over. No matter how frustrated you feel, you must never shake your baby. Vigorous shaking can cause brain damage.

If you have concerns about your baby’s health, always follow your instincts and contact your GP, or phone NHS 111. If it is not urgent you can also text a Health Visitor.

If you need to talk to someone, you can call the Cry-sis helpline on 08451 228 669, 7 days a week 9am-10pm. Cry.sis also have many helpful resources on their website.

ICON has various coping strategies on their site for coping with crying.  

And remember to visit our support and advice pages for more information on looking after your baby. We also run local clinics so you can talk to us in person, find the details here.


Do talk to your friends and family; even if you can’t see them, they may be a massive support. Take time out if it gets too much – there is no shame in just pressing pause and asking for a helping hand.  And do talk with your health visiting team or GP if you are concerned.

Look after yourselves and keep safe.

About the author

Manjot Roy is a Dysphagia Lead, Speech and Language Therapy for Complex Needs