Baby Colic: How to spot it and how to treat it with 14 natural remedies

Newsflash: Babies cry. This is normal. This is real. This is uncomfortable. So, as a new mama, don’t be alarmed if your baby likes to cry. But when does normal crying turn into something more? What if baby colic is what you’re dealing with? Read on, there is hope.

Colic’s Rule of 3

Well, let’s ground ourselves in the definition of baby colic. Think of the rule of 3.

  1. If your baby cries for 3 hours a day,
  2. for at least 3 days a week,
  3. for 3 consecutive weeks,

If these three conditions are met, your child probably has baby colic.

Baby Colic symptoms

What are some other symptoms to look for?

  • Intense crying episodes (sometimes with predictable daily patterns)
  • Inconsolable crying episodes with no apparent trigger
  • Arching of back, clenching of fists, recoiling to touch, and other physical/posture changes

No doubt about it, mamas and papas can really struggle with feelings of helplessness and frustration when baby has these symptoms. But, there is a reason for your baby’s extreme fussiness and there are natural ways to treat baby colic. (So, don’t despair!)

What causes baby colic?

The medical community doesn’t really know inconclusively what causes baby colic. Some chock it up to a rite of passage that usually begins at a few weeks old to 3-4 months, sometimes longer. Others blame it on an immature digestive tract, allergies, a developing brain/neurological system, or high-strung parents. Some theorize that colic children are “introverts” and are easily overstimulated. But for many mamas, we want to get to the bottom of it because watching our child cry for hours on end each day is nearly unbearable. Of course, it’s always recommended to check in with your pediatrician to rule out any other potential issues. If it does end up being baby colic, thankfully, there are some simple and natural remedies that may help reduce or eliminate your baby’s symptoms. Before implementing any of these remedies, check with your pediatrician first. 

Natural Remedies for Baby Colic

1. Rule out Baby Reflux

The first thing mamas will want to rule out is baby reflux. This condition will often mimic some of the same symptoms as baby colic and can be alleviated with natural remedies. A Homeopathic Remedy called Nat Phos 6X changed my daughter from a red, colicky child to a calm, happy baby. Be sure to look for the signs and symptoms of baby reflux and, if appropriate, treat this root cause of your baby’s crying.

2. Check in with a lactation consultant

If you are a breastfeeding mom, this is so essential. There are so many anatomical issues that could be causing your baby grief! Unfortunately, most pediatricians aren’t trained to spot these conditions so be sure you find an IBCLC-certified lactation consultant. Your baby could have a bad latch. She could be tongue-tied. He could be lip-tied. All of these issues could cause some major colic symptoms! You also want to be sure baby is getting enough hindmilk, which is higher in fat, calms the stomach, helps with digestion and promotes satiety. If your baby’s poop is greenish, frothy or mucuosy, this is usually a sign that he’s getting too much foremilk, which can cause digestive distress. This often happens when a breastfeeding mom has too fast a letdown or is having oversupply issues, which is very common in the first few months after giving birth. Consult with a lactation consultant and she can give you tons of tips on nursing positions, feeding strategies and any referrals if any follow up procedures are needed.

3. Follow a Clean Nursing Diet

If you’re a breastfeeding mama, you also want to give up foods that can trigger baby colic symptoms. Dairy is a huge culprit. So are other common allergens like wheat/gluten, eggs, shellfish, citrus, caffeine and spicy foods. While it’s certainly no fun to give up some of your favorite foods, it’s worth your effort. Babies immature digestive systems can react to various foods’ proteins in breast milk! You’ll want to eliminate these allergic foods and give it a good 2-4 weeks to be sure they are cleared from your body and milk. Look into Paleo recipes as these often are free of most common allergens.

4. If using formula, try a different one

Your child may be reacting to something in her baby formula. Some moms find that changing formulas can make all the difference! I would encourage you to try this homemade formula recipe as it’s alive, rich in bioavailable nutrients, and easier to digest than powdered alternatives.

5. Be sure baby is well rested

I couldn’t believe how little Griffin could be up during his first few months of life. If I pushed him beyond 75 minutes, he was hysterical. As a result, I was like a military sergeant watching the clock to be sure I had him swaddled and at the breast before 75 minutes elapsed. Watch your baby’s signs closely and be sure she don’t get overtired. Experiment with wakeful time periods to see what works best. Generally speaking, newborns need to be back to bed within 1-2 hours of waking. For some, it’s only 45 minutes! A good sign that you caught your baby in time is that she goes to bed without any struggle. If he’s crying like crazy, you missed the window. Try next nap time 15 minutes earlier. The point is be sure your baby is getting the rest she needs, when she needs it. This will only help baby colic symptoms.

6. Create closeness

In the last weeks of life in the womb, your baby’s environment is snug, dark, cozy and warm. When babies come out into open space to join the rest of humanity, it can be a jarring and uncomfortable transition. Some even consider the first 3 months of a newborn’s life the “4th trimester.” You can help your colic child transition to the world by babywearing.In many cultures, babywearing is the norm and moms wouldn’t think of setting child down on an activity mat or in a crib. The closeness and warm created with babywearing can soothe colicky babies when nothing else will. Even better, babywear skin-to-skin. Studies show that skin-to-skin contact can regulate baby’s breathing, temperature, heart rate, blood sugar and blood pressure. It can also regulate MOOD!If you like your baby to nap outside of the baby carrier, you can try swaddling. This practice creates some of the comfort and closeness baby is accustomed to. Additionally, some babies wake themselves up regularly with their startle reflux. Others inadvertently scratch themselves. A swaddle will solve both of these problems. You’ll want to be sure you swaddle correctly as too tight at the hips can cause issues later on. I liked this swaddle because it tightens around the arms and leaves the hip/feet loose. Keep in mind, your baby may resist the swaddle initially but he/she will sleep much better and longer with it on. Some babies will like being swaddled for 6 months but most will want to stop around 3-4 months. I also don’t know what I would have done without this transition swaddle. Great for when baby doesn’t want the swaddle anymore but they aren’t ready for a sleep sack or blanket. If your baby is consistently objecting to the swaddle and it isn’t helping her sleep, it’s best to stop.Even better, co-sleep. Some moms bypass the swaddle entirely and co-sleep whenever possible (naps and nighttime). The majority of the world practice this sleeping arrangement. By creating this closeness and warm, you can help soothe your colicky baby.

7. Create some noise

The womb was not only snug but it was noisy. Between mama’s heartbeat and digestion, the sound in utero is intense. My childbirth educator said it’s the equivalent of having a vacuum cleaner on at all times! We like this noisemaker as it’s fan-based and not too intense. My brother ended up playing a hairdryer CD on repeat to keep his baby boy asleep at night! I’ve also heard amazing things about the Sleep Genius app. When we soothe baby to sleep, we can also make ssshhing noises (learned about from “The Happiest Baby on the Block”) or hum loudly. This noise can often refocus their attention, comfort them and reduce crying overall.

8. Let baby suck

Babies have a very powerful sucking reflux that needs to be satiated. If you think about it, it’s literally life or death as this is only way they take in nourishment for their first several months of life. Some babies come out of the womb with sucking blisters on their hands! Babies have a hand-to-mouth reflex too, which them to place their hands, fingers or fists into their mouth as a way to comfort and soothe themselves.Griffin loved to “comfort” nurse or just suckle at the breast after he had his fill of milk. Paloma liked to suck her hand. We also resorted to natural pacifiers when in a pinch (like in the car). If baby is breastfed, let him feed on demand as much as possible. If you formula feed or work outside of the home, you can try a natural pacifier or a clean pinkie finger, if you feel comfortable. (Note: There is a risk of nipple confusion so use wisely.) Bottom line, let your colic baby use their natural refluxes to comfort and soothe themselves.

9. Get fresh air

Something about the fresh air is magical. When I couldn’t soothe Griffin or Paloma, I’d always bundle us up and head outdoors. The sun, the wind, the bird chirping, the movement, all of these elements helped to shift the mood and comfort my babies.

10. Take warm baths

Alternatively, some babies love a warm bath. It can help soothe their tummies as well as their spirits. You don’t have to add any soap or bubble bath. Just warm water and a peaceful bathroom environment. You can also warm a wash cloth and put on baby’s tummy if you don’t want to draw a bath every day.

11. Create movement

With Griffin, I would rock him for hours in my arms. With Paloma, I’d bounce her on an exercise ball for hours. Some moms walk around the house with baby in sling. Some moms put baby in stroller and walk the neighborhood. Of course, the classic is driving around in the car while baby falls asleep in back. Swings and vibrating recliners/rockers can also be fantastic tools for parents of colicky children. Do whatever works for you! The point is movement can calm and soothe an upset child so incorporate regularly.

12. Do bodywork

Certain baby exercises can do wonders for releasing trapped gas. You can try doing bicycle legs, bent legs or put their bellies on your thighs for gentle pressure. You can also do gentle belly massages. (Always do clockwise motion when rubbing baby’s tummy.) Here is a great video that brings these exercises to life! You can also get your baby adjusted by a chiropractor. Many times, during the birth process, baby’s body gets out of alignment which can affect everything from sleep, to bowel movements, to digestion. I would recommend finding someone who specializes in infant care. Here’s where you can find a pediatric chiropractor near you.

13. Use digestive support if necessary

As mentioned earlier, some practitioners believe colic is related to baby’s immature digestion. The trapped gas, sluggish digestive tract and acid reflux (all babies have some form) can lead to the colic symptoms. Some moms find that gripe water works great. Others like using formulations with activated charcoal, which can absorb excess gas.Some breastfeeding moms will drink fennel tea and this will calm baby’s digestive system. Others swear by baby probiotics. In studies, this probiotic strain showed promise for reducing colic symptoms.As I mentioned earlier, of all the products out there, I like the homeopathic remedy Nat Phos 6X. It’s  a natural cell salt, something our body already produces, but it can be underproduced in newborns. I like that it only uses lactose as an added ingredient, something that baby already consumes abundantly with breastmilk or formula. I also found it extremely effective! I administered 1/2 tablet (dissolved in a little breast milk) after every feeding and Paloma went from a fussy, unhappy baby to a calm and peaceful one. The key is to work with your healthcare provider to find the right digestive aid for your baby if appropriate.

14. Get help

Despite all of our best efforts, sometimes babies just cry. Sometimes there is nothing we can do to make it better. Watching this unfold as a parent is heartbreaking… and at times overwhelming. For moms who struggle with postpartum depression, colic can be almost unbearable. It is SUPER important to get help. Have a friend, family member or babysitter come over a few times a week so you can get a break if the crying is too intense. On the weekends, have dad takeover more so you can get some extra rest and light exercise. Talk to a counselor or other moms for support. Don’t go through this alone.

Here’s how other natural mamas helped relieve their baby’s colic naturally

I asked the moms on my Facebook page what they did to help a colicky baby. Here are some of their responses.

  • My daughter had really bad colic. At 2 am and almost 24 hours of no sleep, I turned on my hair dryer. Instant quiet. As soon as I turned it off, she’d start crying. Thank God my hair dryer had a cool setting. My daughter, hair dryer and I spent a lot of time rocking together. – Kimberly G.
  • Woombie, amber/hazel, chiropractor, probiotics, baby wearing, nurse on demand, co sleep, swaddle/swing. It works!! – Eco Chic 
  • My 2nd child was extremely colicky…I tried wearing him, different holding positions ( tummy down on my arm), catnip tea, among others. Our saving grace was a chiropractor. He was amazing, our first visit, and it was like we had a new little boy that same night. – Kimberly H.
  • Yes! My first baby was extremely colicky until almost 6 months. It was really one of the hardest experiences of my life! Wearing her a lot, infant massage, and being proactive about helping her get gas out (squishing her legs up and doing bicycles) were super helpful. Also, we would put her infant tub under the warm water, and let it run on her belly, and this would almost always bring her relief! – Kelley S.
  • Absolutely everyone should have cranial sacral with their infant from birth. My OB and my doula both do it. My infant did and he also has monthly chiro adjustments. – Stephanie H.
  • Brauer’s homeopathic Colic formula. – Simba & Mama
  • Our biggest savior and almost instant improvement was our Chiropractor. – Melissa A. 
  • Catnip tea. – Ashley G.
  • Babywearing…bouncing…nothing really helped much, it was an agonizing 3 months. – Julie T. 

Take heart – it will pass…

Be patient with implementing these natural remedies as some can take time to see the effects, particularly the diet/digestive-related ones. Know that your baby will get through this phase. IT WILL PASS. For most, colic lasts for the first 3-4 months of life. You can look at it as “growing pains” as they make the transition to life on the outside 🙂 While it’s not easy as a parent to watch, you will get through it and get to the other side. Hopefully, these 14 natural remedies for baby colic can help you along the way.

How about you?

Was your baby colicky? What seemed to help him/her? Share with us in the comments below!

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21 Comments

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  1. so helpful! I rocked my 6wk old for 5.5 hours last night.. feel like im losing my mind. thank you for your wonderful
    blog

  2. I found that taking my daughter to the chiropractor 3-4x in a 2 week period was the thing that helped us! The colic, back arching, reflux all completely stopped! It all started around 1.5 months old and we still regularly take her in to get adjusted and she’s almost 2 now!

    • That’s so great!

  3. I found that walking my baby around helps her calm down, they like to be in skin to skin contact, doing the cycling helps too and in addition to that, I put her chamomile oil in her tummy and in the sole of her feet before putting the socks on. I dilute 4 drops of the pure chamomile oil in 100ml virgin coconut oil or any carrier oil will do. It seem to work wonders in helping her with the flatulence/gas. After sometime she would fall asleep soundly, and if she wakes up again after few hours i usually put another time. The scent of the chamomile also helps them relax, i personally like the Aura Cacia brand i buy in iherb.com. U can you this promo code to get discount every time you buy in that site, just enter HIJ0889 in the box provided upon checking out. Such an affordable site to buy health products. This is just my experience that I’m sharing with you, i know how hard it is to handle a colicky baby. I also try to avoid dairy products and gas forming foods

  4. I don’t know it to be fact but mum could drink a bit poppyseed tea, and the relaxation from the alkaloids left on poppyseeds will digest and lactate to mums milk. It’s a thought. And while I know poppyseeds can and often do contain opioids, they are edible and safe in baking and accents with cooking in wee amounts. Of course moderation is key. Some mums are at their wits end with colic and fussy baby and both need a rest. It’s worth a try. Use your good sense and don’t over do it. Soak two tablespoons bakery poppyseeds for ten mins or so in tepid water found at market or grocery. Strain off and add a bit of honey and lemon to tea, like chamomile or lavender. Add to any caffeine free tea would do. Good luck for mum and baby!

  5. my baby was having severe colic and I tried out “baby magic tea” for my little one. It worked out so well for him! he got calm soon after i gave him… it’s a true relief and most of all its healthy as its made up of total natural substances. he’s super happy now! 🙂

  6. The Windi by the people who made NoseFrida is another tool for colic. I’m realizing with my third baby that most of his nighttime crying is caused by gas and stools. The Windi seriously helps. It’s he weirdest tool, but it really, really works!

  7. hairdryer and vacuum are our instant calmers unless she is hungry 🙂

  8. This is my first baby and my husband and I recognised the colic behaviour around 6pm to 9pm everyday. We paid attention, read and implemented these; clean nappies, noises, massages, stretches, closeness and feed on demand. He was awake but calm.

  9. Our doctor gave us good bacteria drops to put in his bottles and in about two weeks he wasn’t crying all the time and my husband finally got to enjoy quality non crying time with him. I’ll never forget that day. It was like light at the end of the tunnel.

    • What is that drop name???

  10. My colicky baby was not getting settled from any formula and remedy unless I started babies magic tea. This tea did a miracle and my fussy baby became the happiest guy in the world.

    • Please share your baby tea with me. My grandbaby has colic and nothing seams to help. Thank you.

  11. Colic is real and it is as horrible for baby as it is for parents. One of my twins had colic for the first year of her life. It destroys quality of life in a household. Colicy crying is very very different then regular baby crying. sweet lord it is horrible.

    All your tips are spot on. My daughter’s colic was most likely linked to her extreme prematurity caused gut issues. She developed NEC (Necrotizing Enterocolitis) shortly after birth that killed a large portion of her gut. After a year we finally got the magic combination of slowly matured/ healing gut, the correct diet for me while nursing, an amino acid based formula to fortify her breast milk with, keeping baby upright 100% of the time (even tummy time was on an incline), the correct medicine dosage for reflux and aspiration, and the correct probiotic.

  12. For those mommys out there who read this same info over and over in a desperate attempt to fix reflux and colic issues, I just want to say nothing like this worked for me. I’ve read so many people’s comments about nat phos, gripe water, eliminating dairy etc and nothing worked for me. I was beginning to think people just assumed this stuff helped as their baby got older and matured a little. I still think this is the case for most people. Especially the dairy thing. I read that a true milk allergy passed through breastmilk is so small in the population that this is quite a myth that it will help colic. Only in 1 percent of cases does this help. I could be wrong about this as much of research was done during screaming fits and sleepless nights. Anyway just wanted to share that if this stuff doesn’t work for you then you are not alone. The baby will grow out of it eventually, usually gets better at the 3-4 month mark. One thing that did really help was having her sleep in a rock and play from fisher price. Not the organic Moses basket I had planned on having her spend her nights in but it certainly did the trick. My baby who would normally wake up choking several times a night from reflux and would cluster feed like crazy started sleeping through the night at 9 weeks old and sleeping well! Hands behind her head and totally relaxed like she was on vacation! Remember you are not alone in this and try elevation even a wedge under a pack and play or co sleeper will help immensely. Swaddling is good too. I will say I think a lot of this has to do with “back is best”. My baby always slept so well on me on her tummy. That’s how she was comfortable and guess what no reflux. But, I was too nervous to put her down for the night like this so rock and play is was and major improvement!!!

    • The Rock-n-Play was a game changer for us. Our Neonatologist at a post NICU follow-up suggested it saying it has a great angle for refluxy babies.

  13. My daughter, Esmé, got colic right on cue. My mother-in-law said my husband was a horribly colicky baby too, so I was feeling dejected from the start. We used gripe water, probiotics and gas drops in rotation. We also swaddled her and let her have a pacifier.

    We eventually learned that she had a lactose issue. I was an overproducter of milk, so that was something we were already combatting. After 6 weeks, we made the decision to put her on a low lactose formula. She was a different baby in less than 24 hours. She slept 5 consecutive hours and started sleeping alone in her room.

    I donated the 250 bags of milk I’d been saving to other mamas in our community, Esmé was finally happier and my husband wasn’t spending nights sleeping in the recliner with the baby so I could sleep.

    Hardest period of infancy, but hoping this experience will help us understand more should it happen with baby #2.

    • The Functional Medicine chiropractor we are seeing stated I might have to do his, go on formula for 4 weeks until the gut heals as a last resort. I so do not want to stop nursing as I love it but I have such a fast letdown and oversupply baby has significant pain within an hour of eating. He also has food sensitivities to dairy, wheat, corn, and chocolate. Fennel tea given directly to baby has helped calm his tummy down though.

  14. My understanding is that true colic only happens during the early evenings and that other times of the day they are fine. Don’t know how true it is, but that is also what I found to be true. My 3rd baby had a bloated belly, felt extremely uncomfortable, and cried around the clock. We found out that she couldn’t tolerate any dairy that I consumed. Once I cut that out she only cried and fussed during those early evening hours. I mostly just walked around outside. Thank God it was spring time! I found an article that I had apparently tore out of a magazine early in my pregnancy talking about the European study (mentioned above) that found success treating colic in breastfed babies with probiotics. I mentioned this to my pediatrician and he agreed. I found great success with BioGaia. No abnormal crying again! I was eventually able to begin consuming dairy again and she’s been a happy, healthy little girl! Hope this helps someone! It can be quite frustrating trying to find out what is making your baby so miserable.

  15. Like the previous commenter, my daughter was also born with a lip tie as well as a tongue tie. Thankfully I had read about them during my pregnancy and the nurse at my side and I checked my girl minutes after she was born. Breastfeeding was painful and causing me injury so I knew the ties were the culprit and had them corrected early on. Thankfully my daughter was still able to get milk despite the ties, though it took her long nursing sessions to do it, so we never experienced the constant crying from constant hunger that is often misdiagnosed as colic. I’d recommend any parent that feels they are dealing with colic definitely check for a tongue and lip tie. I wrote all about my experience: types of ties, mom and baby symptoms, revision process and providers to see if you suspect a tie.

    Debbie @ Semi-Natural Mama

  16. Horrible colic! From 3 pm until 3 am. The Happiest Baby on the Block helped alot (she was swaddled for the first year!). At 6 months due to my daughter having projectile vomiting with food we went to a holistic Doctor and found I had many allergies causing histamine to pass through breastmilk. I got those issues fixed and she had no more issues with vomiting. I now believe the histamine was causing issues when she was a baby (she had horrible acid reflux too). I wish I would of been checked sooner! Also at her 1 year check up we found she has a severe lip tie which is why se cried whenever she tried to nurse, she got frustrated.

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