Alison’s top ten tips for preventing and treating colic
- Do everything possible to get baby’s feeding right. If you’re breastfeeding, there are a
few things you can do to prevent baby from gulping, and try to drain the breast well at
each feed. This will ensure plenty of fat-rich milk (the milk for sleeping). If bottle feeding a
newborn to six-week-old baby, give the bottle over 25 -35 mins, and find the right teat so
baby doesn’t gulp the milk too quickly.
- If breastfeeding, make sure the first feed in the morning is a decent feed with baby getting
enough fat-rich milk. When you’re half asleep and exhausted at 4.00am it’s hard to
concentrate on anything, but put in the work now and you’ll be grateful for the rest of the
day when baby is sleeping and feeding like a champion.
- Learn about gastric dumping — understand why babies get digestive issues and learn how to
- Recognise baby’s early tired signs and help him get to sleep before he gets overtired and
- Recognise the signs of digestive issues, the discomfort/pain that will prevent baby from
sleeping, and use your newfound techniques to resolve them.
- Learn about sleep cycles and how you can use them to your advantage.
- Watch baby at the changeover of deep to light sleep and if she is showing digestive issues
intervene before she fully wakes up. The longer sleep she has, the better her next feed will
be, and the better she feeds, the better she will sleep and so forth.
- Become an expert on bad-day strategies. When baby can’t seem to stop screaming, use
strategies that simulate life in the womb to calm baby and resolve the pain of digestive
issues, which will in turn allow baby to sleep.
- Lower your expectations on a bad day. This is not the time to worry about ‘spoiling’ your
baby or disrupting their routine. Try to get baby through two or three sleep cycles, even if
you have to hold or rock them to do so.
- Don’t get distracted by the ‘red herrings’ and myths surrounding Colic. Colic is not caused
by the garlic you ate, nor does it occur because your milk isn’t ‘rich’ or ‘strong’ enough. Colic
is almost always about ineffective feeding and unresolved painful digestive issues which
disrupt baby’s sleep.
Alison Williams is a a registered nurse and midwife, with graduate diplomas in Midwifery and in
Child and Family Health Promotion. When she started nursing in 1979 she focused on the areas of
paediatrics, accident and emergency nursing, and neonatal intensive care. Since 1996 she has worked
as a midwife and maternal and child health nurse in New Zealand and Australia. The highlight of
her career so far has been the 4.5 years she spent working on caseload midwifery in Gisborne, New
Zealand. Caseload midwifery involves the sole care of women during the pregnancy, throughout the
birth and for six weeks following the birth, referring where necessary to obstetricians, physicians and
paediatricians. Alison has presented at seminars for the Whangai U Breastfeeding Collective, the
Gisborne Hospital and the New Zealand College of Midwives.