Colic Relief For Breastfeeding Moms

  • Dolly Balogun M.D, Medicine, Caucasus International University


Colic is a condition that causes your baby to cry inconsolably for hours, usually in the evening, without any apparent reason. Colic is a very common condition, affecting about one in five babies, regardless of whether they are breastfed or formula-fed.1,3

If you are a parent who has a baby with colic, you may be feeling frustrated, exhausted, and helpless. But the good news is that colic usually goes away by itself when the baby is around four to six months old. Seeking information on causes, treatments and suggestions around colic on the internet can be a downward spiral as this is an area with a lot of unproven theories. Nevertheless, some theories are more widely regarded as scientifically correct and in this article, we will discuss some of these possible causes of colic, and some of the strategies that caretakers can use to relieve colic symptoms. 

Understanding colic

Colic is not a disease but a term used to describe a pattern of crying that occurs in otherwise healthy babies. The exact definition of colic varies, but one commonly used criterion is that your baby cries for more than three hours a day, more than three days a week, for more than three weeks (or at least more than one week).1,3

The cause of colic is not fully understood, but some possible factors include:1,3

  • Immature digestive system. Baby’s digestive system is still developing after birth and may have trouble breaking down the components of breast milk or formula. This can cause gas, bloating, and discomfort
  • Food allergies or intolerances. Some babies may be allergic or sensitive to certain proteins or sugars in breast milk or formula, such as cow’s milk protein or lactose. This can trigger inflammation and irritation in the baby’s gut
  • Overstimulation. Babies may be overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, and sensations of the world around them, especially in the evening when they are tired. This can make them fussy and restless, and crying may be their way of releasing tension
  • Temperament. Some babies may have a more sensitive or intense personality than others and may cry more easily or loudly as a result. This does not mean that they are unhappy or unloved, just that they need more soothing and comforting

Breastfeeding techniques for colic relief

Breastfeeding is not a cause of colic, and in fact, it is very beneficial for a baby's health and development. Breast milk contains antibodies, enzymes, hormones, and other factors that can protect babies from infections, allergies, and inflammation. Breastfeeding also provides physical and emotional comfort for your baby, helping them feel secure and calm.

However, there are some breastfeeding techniques that can be used to help prevent or reduce colic symptoms in a breastfed baby. Although the positive effects of these techniques on colic have not been fully proven, they do not cause any harm to the baby so trying is deemed safe.2 

  • Burping the baby during and after every feed, helps them release any air that they may have swallowed while nursing
  • Positioning the baby so that they are sitting up as straight as possible while nursing to help minimise the amount of air that they swallow
  • Attachment of the baby to the breast while feeding is also important. A good latch means that the baby’s mouth covers most of the areola (the dark area around your nipple), and that their lips are flanged outwards. There shouldn't be any pain or pinching while nursing
  • Switching sides. If the baby tends to nurse for a long time on one side, switching sides during feeding might help. This will balance the amount of foremilk and hindmilk that they get from each breast. Foremilk is the thinner milk that comes out first and the hindmilk is the richer milk that comes out later. Both types are important for the baby’s nutrition, but too much foremilk may cause gas and fussiness in some babies

Maternal diet and colic

There is no conclusive scientific evidence that changing your diet will help a baby's colic, but some mothers find that avoiding certain foods or drinks can make a difference. This may be because some substances in a mother's diet can pass into the breast milk and affect the baby’s digestion or mood. Some of the foods or drinks that you may want to limit or eliminate from your diet include caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, dairy products and other common allergens such as eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, and fish.1,3

If you suspect that your baby is sensitive to any of these, you can try eliminating them from your diet for a few weeks and see if there is any improvement in your baby’s colic. However, before making any major changes to your diet, you should consult with your doctor or a dietitian to make sure that you are still getting enough nutrients for yourself and your baby.

Managing breast milk supply

Another factor that can affect your baby’s colic is the amount and timing of your breast milk supply. Sometimes the milk supply may be too fast, too slow, too little or too much for the baby’s preference which can cause frustration and discomfort.

Some of the signs that might suggest a breast milk supply issue include:

  • Baby seems hungry all the time or not satisfied after feeds
  • Baby pulls away from the breast or refuses to nurse
  • Baby spits up a lot or has green or frothy stools
  • Breasts feel engorged, hard, or painful
  • Leakage of milk between feeds or plugged ducts or mastitis

If you think that you have a breast milk supply issue, there are proven effective methods on managing breast milk supply although as with many of the suggestions on colic, their effects on colic are not fully proven.

Herbal and natural remedies

Some mothers find that using herbal or natural remedies can help ease their baby’s colic symptoms. These remedies may have anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, or sedative effects on the baby.2,3

However, before using any herbal or natural remedies for yourself or your baby, you should always check with a qualified healthcare professional to make sure that they are safe and effective. Following the recommended dosage and instructions carefully is also crucial.

Some of the herbal or natural remedies that may help with colic include chamomile, fennel, ginger and probiotics. Chamomile and Ginger both have anti-inflammatory properties while Fennel has antispasmodic effects.1,3

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in your gut and help with digestion and immunity. They can also help balance the flora in your baby’s gut, which may be disrupted by factors such as antibiotics, infections, or formula feeding. You can take probiotic supplements yourself, or give them to your baby in powder or liquid form. You can also eat foods that contain probiotics, such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, or kimchi.2,3

Soothing techniques for baby

Soothing techniques won’t be curing the colic, they can be used to comfort the baby and reduce their crying episodes.2,3 Some of the soothing techniques are,

  • Swaddling is wrapping your baby snugly in a blanket or cloth, so that they feel secure and warm. It can help calm your baby’s startle reflex, which may cause them to cry when they feel sudden movements or noises. Swaddling can also help your baby sleep better and longer
  • White noise is a constant sound that masks other sounds that may disturb your baby. It can help create a soothing environment for your baby, and mimic the sounds that they heard in the womb. White noise can be produced by devices such as fans, humidifiers, and air conditioners. Music devices or apps can also be used to play white noise sounds such as rain, ocean waves, or heartbeat
  • Moving your baby gently in a rhythmic way, such as rocking, swinging, bouncing, or walking can help stimulate your baby’s vestibular system, which controls their balance and coordination. Motion can also help relax your baby’s muscles and nerves, and distract them from their discomfort. Devices such as cradles, swings, bouncers, or carriers can be used to move the baby
  • Pacifier is a device that mimics the shape of a nipple and allows your baby to suck on it for comfort. It can help satisfy your baby’s sucking reflex, which is a natural instinct that helps them calm down and cope with stress. Pacifiers can also help prevent overfeeding, which may cause colic symptoms in some babies

When to seek professional help

While most cases of colic are harmless and self-limiting, sometimes colic may be a sign of a more serious problem that requires medical attention. You should seek professional help if:1,2

  • Baby cries for more than five hours a day
  • Baby has other symptoms such as fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, blood in stool
  • Baby does not gain weight or grows poorly
  • Baby has difficulty breathing or turns blue
  • Baby has an abnormal shape or size of head
  • Baby has an unusual cry that sounds like pain

Doctors will examine your baby and perform some tests to rule out any underlying conditions that may cause colic symptoms. They may also prescribe some medications or treatments that may help with colic.

Dealing with colic can be very challenging for breastfeeding moms. It can affect their physical and mental health, as well as their relationship with partners and other family members. That is why it is important to take care of yourself as well as your baby. Resting while the baby naps, eating balanced and nutritious foods, drinking plenty of fluids, physical activities such as yoga or walking and relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises are simple yet effective ways of maintaining the mental and physical health of moms. 

You should also seek help when needed. Try to talk to someone who understands what you are going through, such as your partner, a friend, a family member, or a support group. You can also seek professional help from a counsellor, a therapist, or a lactation consultant. You are not alone, and you do not have to suffer in silence.


Navigating the challenges of colic as a breastfeeding mom can be emotionally and physically demanding. Colic, while distressing, is a common phase that usually resolves on its own by around four to six months of age. Understanding the potential causes of colic, such as an immature digestive system, food sensitivities, overstimulation, and temperament, may help caregivers employ effective strategies to alleviate symptoms. 

Employing breastfeeding techniques like proper positioning, frequent burping, and ensuring a good latch can contribute to a more comfortable feeding experience for both mother and baby. 

While there's no conclusive evidence linking maternal diet to colic, some mothers find dietary adjustments helpful. Monitoring breast milk supply and seeking professional advice for any related issues is crucial. Herbal and natural remedies, along with soothing techniques like swaddling, white noise, motion, and pacifiers, may offer comfort to the baby during colicky episodes. 

Importantly, recognizing when to seek medical attention and maintaining self-care through rest, nutrition, exercise, and emotional support is paramount for the well-being of both mother and child. Remember, seeking help from loved ones, support groups, or professionals is a proactive step in overcoming the challenges of colic and ensuring a healthier, happier journey for both mom and baby.


  1. Banks JB, Rouster AS, Chee J. Colic. [Updated 2022 Aug 1]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:
  2. Mai T, Fatheree NY, Gleason W, Liu Y, Rhoads JM. Infantile colic. Gastroenterology Clinics of North America [Internet]. 2018 Dec [cited 2023 Dec 1];47(4):829–44. Available from:
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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Kutal Mete Tekin

MRes, Bioengineering, Imperial College London

Kutal trained as a medical doctor in Istanbul before moving to London for this research masters at Imperial College London. He works as a part time medical interpreter with the NHS. His written work can also be seen in the motor sports sector as he has been a freelance sports writer and and editor since 2016.

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