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Colic: How to Win the Crying Game

Colin Dang

Colic: How to Win the Crying Game 


The incessant wailing of baby reaches every inch of a new parent’s living space?including their minds. Coda can help. In a new series, Colin answers the questions he’s most frequently asked at the shop. And this one’s a biggie.

 “So, baby, please stop crying, 'cause it's tearing up my mind.” Baby Stop Crying, Bob Dylan. 

‘It’s a “Waaah! Waaah! not “Waaaaaaaah!! [deep breath} Waaaaaaaaaaahhh!! What do you think it is, Colin?’

Babies are limited in their range of oral expression. In a world where a Scottish grown-up can, theoretically, describe snow in eight times more ways than Eskimos, a baby is left with no discernable vocabulary at all beyond emitting a noise matching jet engines for decibels.

It is the warning siren dragging exhausted parents from a warm bed to a hot, angry offspring crying about either (a) nothing (b) any one of hundreds of things, some of which are life-threatening. Deadly, even. And you must get it right, at 3 am, with no clues beyond an incensed infant.

So, like the customer above, we’re often left to guess and make assumptions based on flimsy evidence. And then we hit the Internet. (Hardly the gold standard of quality information.)

So, deep breath. Let’s do this properly.


It’s not knowing what’s wrong, right?

A yelling baby has a finite number of potential problems, almost all minor, no matter how spectacular the fallout. So, don’t respond like Pavlov’s dogs every time your baby cries. Give them time to settle down of their own accord. That happens A LOT. If it doesn’t, work through the ‘crying baby’ checklist in case your baby is trying to communicate something entirely different. suggests three chief reasons for baby hitting the high notes, including hunger and sleep problems. The NHS add nappy ‘issues’, wanting a cuddle, wind, being too hot or cold, boredom or, conversely, being overstimulated.  Both sources name another suspect, though.

What is colic?

While the medical profession consistently agree on the symptoms of colic, the cause/s is another matter. Theories include:

  • Spasming muscles in a growing digestive system
  • Wind
  • Overfeeding or underfeeding
  • Sensitivity to formula or breast milk
  • Hormones causing stomach pain
  • A sensitivity to light, noise, or other stimulation.
  • A developing nervous system
  • An early form of childhood migraine

So, your baby has colic. What next?

Don’t panic. Colic is an occupational hazard for parent and baby alike. Older hands (ie whoever looked after you when you had it) know colic sounds worse than it is.

Colic is well-known and treatable, and there is plenty of good advice available. And don’t feel the guilt that is often the parental default setting.

  • You didn’t cause the colic.
  • Babies stop getting colic after four months.
  • It doesn’t mean your baby is fundamentally unhealthy.
  • There are many ways to fix this.
  • Holding your baby for extended periods won’t spoil them.

Soothing a baby with colic

That’s all great, but it’s now 3:10 am and because baby is a long way from sleep, you’re no closer to bed. The NHS offers the same advice online as doctors and health visitors would face to face.

Play it simple

  • Hold and cuddle your baby or rock them on your shoulder.
  • Sit or hold your baby upright when feeding, and wind them afterwards. 

Up your game

  • Bathe them in a warm bath.
  • Rock their Moses basket or crib.

Nice finish

  • Push them in their pram.
  • Use the radio or TV as white/background noise.

Still no joy?

Okay, let’s step it up. NHS Direct is clear about getting expert advice, particularly when it’s not only the baby stressing. So, call NHS 111 or your GP if your colic-y offspring tick any of these boxes:

  • You're worried about your baby's crying.
  • Nothing seems to be working.
  • You're finding it hard to cope.
  • Your baby is more than four months old.


Even if your child is within the normal age threshold, points 1, 2 and 3 are a perfect storm of stress for mum, dad – whoever is holding the baby. So, don’t leave it late to get help if you need it.

Code Red

And, just like mum describing her child’s crying in the shop, you know your child better than anyone. Trust your instincts. If you think something is seriously wrong, particularly if they have other worrying symptoms such as a weak or high-pitched cry that does not sound normal to you, then go to A&E or call 999.

Coda can help

It’s difficult to prevent something with so many potential causes but keeping your baby comfortable, free from nappy-rash and ensuring access to age-appropriate pain relief really help when colic, or teething trouble inevitably strikes. And we're always happy to offer informal, informed advice at the shop, by phone, online or by email.

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