How do you relieve colic in babies?

Colic begins at the same time every day and babies are mainly fussy during evening hours. / Net photo

Some experts believe that colic is the result of an allergy to milk protein (or lactose intolerance) in formula-fed babies. More infrequently, colic may be a reaction to specific foods in the mother’s diet in breastfed babies. Whatever the case, these allergies or sensitivity can cause stomach pain that may result in colicky behaviour.

“Colic is a common symptom which occurs during the first few months of life. It is almost resolved by four months of age. Colic begins at the same time every day and babies are mainly fussy during evening hours,” says Dr Bwiza Muhire, a Kigali-based paediatrician.

Dr Raymond Awazi, a paediatric expert in Kigali, says that colic takes like four months to fade, but when it begins a little late, like at three weeks, it disappears early, like in three months.

According to WebMD, the exact cause of colic is unknown, and that’s why there’s not a clear way to help it. Some theories of what’s behind it include; a growing digestive system with muscles that often spasm, gas, hormones that cause stomach pain or a fussy mood, oversensitivity or overstimulation by light, noise, a moody baby, and a still-developing nervous system.


Awazi says excessive crying, swelling of the belly, contraction of belly muscles, flexuous legs, brown babies’ faces turning red, babies passing out gas from the anus (seems like constipation but not), are evidence enough that the baby is stressed with colic.

He says the baby’s belly happens to be swollen yet the crying may last for periods or hours. But if the crying is normal, mothers should not be bothered or worried about it.

For Muhire, colic is characterised by paroxysmal, inconsolable screaming often accompanied by drawing up of knees and passage of excessive flatus; these symptoms tend to happen several times a day particularly in the evening without any obvious medical reason.

He adds that crying occurs at the same time every day (usually in the late afternoon or early evening, but it can vary). Crying seems to occur for no reason (not because the baby has a dirty diaper or is hungry or tired).

Muhire further says the baby may pull up its legs, tighten its fists and generally move the legs and arms more. The baby can also often close the eyes or open them very wide, furrow his brow, even hold his breath briefly.

Bowel activity may increase, and he may pass gas or spit-up. Eating and sleeping are disturbed by the crying, baby hysterically seeks a nipple only to reject it once sucking has begun, or dozes for a few moments only to wake up screaming, he notes.


Muhire also says the health care providers should only offer support and reassurance after excluding other possible causes of infants’ crying, some provide gripe water but it is of unproven benefit.

Private Kamanzi, a dietician at Amazon Wellness Centre in Remera, Gasabo District, says, mothers should improve on the feeding method through helping the infant not swallow some air with a curved bottle and also using a pacifier, placing the baby in infant swings, providing a warm bath, pressing a warm water bottle on the baby’s belly to release gas and hip-healthy swaddling.

He says, while breastfeeding, since some food like chocolate, fruits (oranges), eggs, caffeine, wheat, soy, onions, and vegetables like broccoli are not good (through breast milk) because they worsen the ache in the baby’s stomach. 

Kamanzi explains the breastfeeding mother should limit foods and drinks with caffeine, for example, chocolate, coffee, tea, and soft drinks. Drink plenty of water each day. If you are thirsty, you are not drinking enough. If using artificial sweeteners, check with a registered dietitian on how much can safely be consumed each day.

“Some foods may cause an allergy in an infant, the most common allergy-causing foods are cow’s milk, eggs, wheat and peanuts. If you notice an allergy you may want to reduce or eliminate these foods for a period of time,” Kamanzi says.


Awazi says the baby should lay on the belly but not the back, and, also, whenever a baby is crying, he/she should be put on the shoulder then walk around slowly because this will reduce the excessive crying and make it a little more bearable.

He says mothers should avoid overfeeding or feeding the baby quickly, if the baby feeds for like 20 minutes, the nipples’ holes may become too large and start bringing too much milk, which might increase the baby’s crying.

If symptoms worsen, it is good to see a paediatrician to rule out any other causes of the uneasiness. Mothers should learn what comforts the baby before colic increases since it will help reduce the discomfort.

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