Breastfeeding And Colic Symptoms

  • Luxshiny SivachandrabharathyBachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery - MBBS, Health/Health Care Administration/Management, King's College London, UK

Breastfeeding and colic symptoms: understanding the connection 

Embarking on the breastfeeding journey stirs excitement and apprehension, especially for those new to parenthood. It's a path that can appear intricate and overwhelming, from mastering the subtleties of positioning and latch to addressing concerns about maintaining an adequate milk supply. However, within these initial challenges lies a realm of benefits that extend far beyond essential nourishment.

Often referred to as "liquid gold," breast milk brings many advantages for infants and mothers. Its composition is precisely crafted to cater to the evolving needs of growing babies, offering unparalleled nutritional and immune-boosting properties.1 Breast milk alone provides "more than half of an infant's energy needs between 6 and 12 months and about a third between 12 and 24 months".2 Even within an hour of birth, early breastfeeding can shield newborns from initial infections and reduce early mortality.

Yet, it's essential to acknowledge that the journey isn't without its obstacles. As parents embrace this path, they might also encounter the mysterious presence of colic—a phase that has puzzled families for generations. Colic manifests as excessive crying and fussiness in an otherwise healthy baby, typically starting around the second week of life and peaking at 6-8 weeks. The exact triggers behind colic remain a puzzle, fostering a continuous avenue of research and exploration.

In our exploration, we'll look at the complex interaction between breastfeeding and colic. By capturing the essence of both breastfeeding and colic, parents can find comfort in understanding that while challenges may emerge, the ultimate rewards of this journey can serve as the foundation for a healthy and fulfilling life.

Understanding colic

Crying is a natural part of infancy means of communication for babies. Yet, when the crying seems relentless, lasting more than 3 hours a day, three days a week for at least one week, and no other signs of underlying causes are present, your baby might be dealing with colic. Additional colic indicators could include clenching of fists, reddening of the face, difficulty finding comfort, drawing their knees towards their chest, and excessive gassiness. If your baby's cry is weak or high-pitched, it is crucial to seek prompt medical attention.3,4

The roots of colic are elusive, with no singular cause established. However, factors such as stomach discomfort, food intolerances (such as cow's milk allergies, although studies have shown removal of cow's milk doesn't permanently alleviate colic symptoms), trapped wind, or changes in hormonal levels could play a role. Despite the lack of a definitive cause, relentless crying can place both parents and infants under strain.3

Handling colic

Effectively addressing colic requires a multi-faceted approach, with breastfeeding practices and techniques playing a pivotal role. The correct positioning can make a difference, offering comfort and relief. From snugly wrapping your baby in a blanket or using a baby sling to experimenting with different holds—whether cradled on your forearm, nestled in your arms, or perched on your shoulder—each position presents an opportunity for comfort. 

Swaddling, the art of wrapping your baby, may provide a sense of security, while a gentle sway or keeping your baby upright during feeding could reduce air-swallowing.5 Don't forget the importance of burping your baby after feeds or encouraging them to draw their knees to their tummy—it's all part of the toolkit.

Creating a soothing environment is a cornerstone of managing colic. While some parents suggest minimizing stimulation by embracing a tranquil, dimly lit space, others find movement, whether through a pram stroll or a car ride, brings respite. The hum of white noise, whether from a vacuum cleaner or a washing machine, can also offer solace, much like the gentle touch of a tummy rub or a warm bath.

For breastfeeding parents, a balanced diet remains a guiding principle. While a complete diet overhaul isn't has not shown any significant impact from research5, some women have found that moderating caffeine, spicy foods, and alcohol might alleviate colic symptoms. The path to soothing your little one's discomfort is paved with options, each a gentle nudge towards making these colic-filled days a bit easier.

Regarding feeding strategies, a balanced approach can alleviate colic's grip. If you're bottle-feeding, a fast-flow teat might help minimize air intake. Remember, the golden rule of burping after feeds remains steadfast. While considering changes to your baby's formula, it's wise to consult your GP or health visitor but steer clear of anti-colic drops or supplements, as their effectiveness is still debated. 

It was found that if your baby is not well attached, they are less likely to consume milk with a higher fat density. The fat in the milk helps babies produce more energy and slows gastric emptying, essentially allowing your baby to stay fuller for longer. If this occurs for a prolonged period, your baby will consume more milk (lactose), and the levels of lactose will be greater than lactase (the enzyme used to break down milk products), which results in excess lactose levels. The excess lactose will then be digested by natural bacteria in the gut, producing gases such as hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide.

Recommended steps to help your babies latch:

  • Cradle your baby in your arms, ensuring their nose aligns with your nipple
  • Slightly tilt your baby's head back, allowing their upper lip to touch your nipple gently- this encourages your baby to open their mouth wide
  • As your baby's mouth opens widely, its chin should make initial contact with your breast, and its head should be titled back, enabling its tongue to access more of your breast
  • With your baby's chin snugly against your breast and their nose unobstructed, their mouth should be fully open. When they latch, you'll observe more of the darker nipple skin above their upper lip than beneath their lower lip. Your baby's cheeks will appear plump and rounded as they feed 

In the grand journey of parenthood, there's no denying that challenges come hand-in-hand with the joys. The intricate dance between breastfeeding and colic serves as a reminder that parenthood is a process of trial and error, where uncertainties are part for the course. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the complexities of nurturing a child, especially when faced with the difficulty of colic. Yet, in these moments of uncertainty lies an opportunity to learn and grow, both as parents and individuals. 

Parenthood underscores the essence of the human experience—a journey of growth, connection, and unconditional love. While the challenges may seem daunting, and the uncertainties may be unsettling, the beauty of parenthood shines through in the resilience of parents, the bonds formed, and the shared moments of pure, unfiltered joy. It's a reminder that every trial and error, every sleepless night, and every tender touch is a part of the incredible tapestry of parenthood—an adventure that's as remarkable as it is rewarding.


Is breastfeeding important for the mother's health too?

Yes, breastfeeding has health benefits for mothers as well. It can help with postpartum recovery, reduce the risk of certain cancers, and aid in weight loss.

How often should I breastfeed my baby?

Newborns typically need to breastfeed every 2-3 hours, or whenever they show signs of hunger. As they grow, the frequency may decrease, and you can follow your baby's cues.

How do I know if my baby is latching correctly?

A proper latch involves the baby taking in a good amount of the areola (darker area around the nipple) along with the nipple itself. The baby's lips should be flanged outward, and you'll hear them swallowing.

What can I do if breastfeeding is painful?

Pain while breastfeeding could be due to improper latch or positioning. Seek help from a lactation consultant or healthcare provider to address the issue.

Can I breastfeed if I have a low milk supply?

Low milk supply can sometimes be improved through frequent breastfeeding, proper latch, staying hydrated, and getting adequate rest. Consult a lactation consultant for guidance.

Can I breastfeed if I return to work?

Yes, many working mothers successfully breastfeed by using breast pumps to express milk while at work and breastfeeding when they are with their babies.

Can I breastfeed if I have inverted nipples?

Inverted nipples can make latching challenging, but with proper techniques and support, many mothers with inverted nipples can still breastfeed successfully.

How long should I breastfeed my baby?

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months and continuing with complementary foods for up to two years or more.

What if my baby isn't gaining enough weight from breastfeeding?

If you're concerned about your baby's weight gain, consult your paediatrician or healthcare provider. They can assess the situation and provide guidance.

Remember, every breastfeeding journey is unique, and seeking support from healthcare professionals or lactation consultants can be immensely helpful in addressing any concerns or challenges you might face.


Breastfeeding offers crucial benefits for infants and mothers, but it can be accompanied by challenges like colic, marked by excessive crying and fussiness. While the exact cause of colic remains unclear, managing it involves employing diverse strategies, such as proper breastfeeding techniques, creating a soothing environment, and considering dietary adjustments. Seeking guidance from healthcare professionals or lactation consultants can prove invaluable in addressing concerns and ensuring a successful breastfeeding journey for both parent and child.


  1. Lyons KE, Ryan CA, Dempsey EM, Ross RP, Stanton C. Breast milk, a source of beneficial microbes and associated benefits for infant health. Nutrients. 2020 Apr 9;12(4):1039.
  2. Martin CR, Ling PR, Blackburn GL. Review of infant feeding: key features of breast milk and infant formula. Nutrients. 2016 May 11;8(5):279.
  3. Savino F, Ceratto S, De Marco A, Cordero di Montezemolo L. Looking for new treatments of Infantile Colic. Italian journal of pediatrics. 2014 Dec;40(1):1-6.
  4. Banks JB, Rouster AS, Chee J. Infantile Colic. [Updated 2023 Oct 29]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:
  5. Daelemans S, Peeters L, Hauser B, Vandenplas Y. Recent advances in understanding and managing infantile colic. F1000Research. 2018;7.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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