Breastfeeding Colic Diet Tips

  • Sekinat AmooMasters of Public Health – MPH, University of Sheffield, England

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Colic is responsible for 10-20% of all early paediatrician visits.1 It is when a healthy baby cries for a very long time, for no obvious reason during the first six weeks of life. It begins suddenly with intense, continuous crying that usually goes away on its own.

It is associated with many adverse reactions like maternal depression, child abuse and early cessation of breastfeeding.2 Although the exact cause of colic is largely unknown, studies have shown that following a healthy diet while breastfeeding is beneficial for managing and reducing colic symptoms in babies.

This article dives into the kinds of foods and diets that breastfeeding mothers can adhere to, to reduce the symptoms of colic in their infants.

Understanding colic

Colic is characterised by frequent, prolonged, and intense crying in a healthy infant. This crying usually lasts for more than three hours a day, more than three days a week and more than three weeks. It is a common problem that affects up to 1 in 4 new babies in the first few weeks of life and usually goes away naturally by the third or fourth month.

Symptoms of colic may include the following

  • Intense crying for no apparent reason, which may seem like an expression of pain
  • Extreme discomfort or fussiness even after crying has stopped
  • Episodes occur mostly in the evenings and timing is usually predictable
  • Visible tightening of the body, such as a tense abdomen, stiffened legs or arms
  • Decolouration of the face
  • Burping often or passing a lot of gas
  • Pulling the legs up towards the belly

The cause of colic is largely unknown and should only be diagnosed after the exclusion of other causes. However, there are a few theories linked to likely contributing factors. It may occur when babies are:

  • Not tolerant to milk or have a milk allergy
  • Sensitive to gas
  • Sensitive or unable to adjust easily to the world
  • Underdeveloped digestive system
  • Imbalance of the ‘good’ bacteria in the gut
  • Overfeed or insufficient feeding
  • Food allergies
  • Family stress or anxiety

Colic-causing foods once consumed by the breastfeeding mum can find their way to the breastmilk and therefore upset the baby. However, both breastfed and formula-fed babies equally suffer from colic.

Some studies have suggested that modifying the mother’s diet may prevent colic in breastfed infants. It is recommended that women eat at least three meals a day with occasional healthy snacks.

Caffeine, artificial sweeteners, strict diets, and drastic weight loss should either be cut to the barest minimum or should be avoided. For artificial sweeteners, a registered dietician can recommend the safe amounts that can be consumed daily. 

Taking medication while breastfeeding may increase irritability and fussiness in babies. Caffeine, nicotine, and some other active ingredients have been linked to increased irritability since the baby’s system is not mature enough to get rid of these active ingredients.

Several studies have reported some benefits from the use of a hypoallergenic formula, maternal diet adjustment (focusing on a low-allergen diet), and reduced stimulation of the infant. Studies have also shown a link between dairy consumption in breastfeeding mothers and an increase in the incidence of colic in their infants and vice-versa.4

A study showed a reduction of 37% in the risk of colic in breastfed infants when their mothers eliminated potential allergens like soy, peanut, wheat, dairy, eggs, and fish from their diet compared to those who did not.5

In addition to the tips above, a breastfeeding mother’s diet should include an adequate supply of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and plenty of water. If you notice a change in your diet is affecting your baby, restrict those foods and monitor your baby, and if possible, replace them with better alternatives. Calorie restrictions should be avoided, and weight loss should be gradual.

Studies have suggested a correlation between a mother’s diet and infantile colic. They have shown that a change in the mother’s diet can lead to a significant decline in colic symptoms, i.e., in the duration of the baby’s cry.5 Other studies have found a correlation between the consumption of certain foods and colic in breastfed infants. Ultimately, research has shown that an elimination diet may help alleviate symptoms of colic.

Recently, there has been a lot of interest in balancing healthy bacteria such as lactobacillus acidophilus in the baby’s gut. Breastfed babies are likely to have a good amount of these bacteria. A breastfeeding mother looking to alter her diet to address her baby’s colic symptoms should therefore speak to a dietician to ensure that she and her baby still get all the required nutrients for a healthy gut.

Breastfeeding colic diet tips

Some colic symptoms can be reduced by changing the mum’s diet and the food choices she makes until her breastfeeding infant outgrows this phase. If you notice that your baby is prone to wind, some of the foods to avoid include: 

  • Gluten – if you have an infant that you suspect is sensitive to the gluten in your diet and showing signs of colic as a result, eliminate wheat, oats, barley, and rye and replace them with gluten-free alternatives to alleviate the symptoms
  • Certain vegetables and legumes – including garlic, cabbage, broccoli, beans, turnips, and onions. These foods are commonly known to affect a mother’s breastmilk and in turn, can trigger colic symptoms
  • Dairy products such as cheese, ice cream, and milk can cause wind and gas in a baby’s tummy and should be avoided if your baby is experiencing colic symptoms
  • Caffeinated drinks – including teas and coffee. There are natural caffeine-free alternatives that might be more suitable for a mother with a colicky baby
  • Specific fruits – such as melons, peaches, apricots, rhubarb, and prunes can intensify colic symptoms in your baby and should therefore be avoided

It is advised that you keep a daily record of the foods you eat and monitor how fussy your baby gets to understand what might be triggering colic and adjust accordingly.

There are some foods and drinks that can help prevent the symptoms of colic and encourage a healthy gut in the baby. These include

  • water
  • fruits
    • apples
    • pears
    • papaya
    • bananas
  • non-cruciferous vegetables
    • celery
    • kala
    • asparagus
  • mushrooms
  • teas
    • chamomile
    • dandelion
    • cardamom
    • fennel
  • bone broth
  • lean protein
  • whole grains
  • apple cider vinegar

Water is especially important for hydration.

Consultation with a healthcare provider

There is no specific test for colic, however, the only way to rule out the likelihood of any other disease is to have the baby checked by a medical doctor. Colic usually gets better by itself, suddenly, with or without medication. There is very little evidence to support the treatments offered. Moreover, some prescribed medications have significant safety concerns and unwanted side effects like making the baby sleepier, which can be dangerous. 

Claims have been made that gripe water eases colicky symptoms like gas build-up in the gut and indigestion but there is no evidence that it can improve colic in babies and should therefore only be used in consultation with your healthcare professional. 


The benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the occasional, short-lived symptoms of colic. It is therefore important for the mother’s diet to contain plenty of water and adequate amounts of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy and whole grains. Changing the mother’s diet has proven benefits for a baby with colic but care should be taken to ensure the nutritional needs of both mother and baby are met.

Soothing and caring for a colicky baby might seem like a daunting task, but it may help to let someone periodically care for your baby so you can get a break and some rest. Taking care of yourself may reduce your stress level and in turn help your baby. Also, seek professional help to rule out the possibility of any other condition that may be causing your baby distress.

Colic usually becomes a source of concern because it increases the stress levels for parents, parents and babies lose sleep and the colicky baby may be overfed in a bid to stop the crying, which might aggravate the colic symptoms. However, this phase is short-lived as the colic will go away on its own, in most cases at the age of six months.


  1. Iacovou M, Ralston RA, Muir J, Walker KZ, Truby H. Dietary management of infantile colic: a systematic review. Matern Child Health J [Internet]. 2012 Aug [cited 2023 Oct 17];16(6):1319–31. Available from:
  2. Sung V. Infantile colic. Aust Prescr [Internet]. 2018 Aug 1 [cited 2023 Oct 17];41(4):105–10. Available from:
  3. Crotteau CA, Wright ST. What is the best treatment for infants with colic? 2006 [cited 2023 Oct 17]; Available from:
  4. Dhaheri WA, Diksic D, Ben-Shoshan M. IgE-mediated cow milk allergy and infantile colic: diagnostic and management challenges. Case Reports [Internet]. 2013 Feb 7 [cited 2023 Oct 17];2013:bcr2012007182. Available from:
  5. Critch J. Infantile colic: Is there a role for dietary interventions? Paediatr Child Health [Internet]. 2011 Jan [cited 2023 Oct 17];16(1):47–9. Available from:
  6. Aksoy Okan M, Gunduz M, Okur M, Akgun C, Esin K. Does maternal diet affect infantile colic? J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2016 Oct;29(19):3139–41

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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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Sekinat Amoo

Masters of Public Health – MPH, University of Sheffield, England

Sekinat is a highly skilled and dedicated health writer, complemented by her invaluable experience as a Public Health Consultant. With an academic background in Life Sciences and Healthcare and a profound passion for women empowerment, Sekinat has seamlessly merged the worlds of healthcare and communication to advocate for improved women's health, well-being, and empowerment through her writing. She has many years of experience in healthcare management consulting, programme and project management and execution. Her work is driven by a desire to educate, inspire, and empower women to take charge of their health and lives. She is proficient in crafting clear, concise, and informative health content and has a knack for translating complex health information into easily digestible articles, reports, and publications.

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