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The 20 biggest myths about colic told to unsuspecting new parents

father watching baby sleep

Isn't it incredible that the moment you announce you are pregnant, everyone from your aunt to the shop cashier become baby experts, offering you a host of advice?

However well meaning and innocent, you are probably experiencing some level of information overload. In my 25 years of practice, having treated over 5,000 babies, I have heard it all!

This guide was compiled to help you sort fact from fiction in the face of conflicting advice.

Feeding myths and mistakes about colic

Too much? Too little? When and what?

1. 'Babies should eat at specific times'

New parents sometimes make the mistake of wanting their baby to eat on a strict schedule. they will even go so far as to wake their baby up to breastfeed perhaps because of a common misconception that breast milk is not thick enough to get an infant through the night. The truth is that whether breast-fed or bottle-fed, baby knows when they're hungry and they know when they're full. If you feed on demand, they're going to eat better and sleep better. As long as a newborn is eating at least every four hours, they should keep whatever schedule they want.

2. 'They should only have so much milk' (underfeeding)

Eating is a newborn baby’s primary need in the first few weeks. Yet a surprising number of parents have the idea that their infant should only have a specific amount of milk. This advice is sometimes given because of reflux (throwing up). Unless there is a specific medical reason for doing so, the infant should feed until they stop by themselves. A baby has an immature satiation center in the brain and it is programmed to keep on drinking until they can’t anymore. The downside is that they may drink too much and some will come back up again. No big deal – just a little mess!

3. 'My baby is hungry and needs more milk' (overfeeding)

This often happens when the parent has a fussy or colicky baby and attempts to satisfy or calm them by feeding them at increasingly shorter intervals. It is easy to do because it often works in the early stages! We call this comfort feeding. But if your baby ate not that long ago, and stopped all by themselves after a good feed, the chances are that something else could be bothering them (usually tired or have trapped gas or wind). By repeatedly feeding at too short intervals, you can make the problem worse.

Don’t worry - they will regulate themselves before long. If you try to control and limit the amount of milk they get, they will be unsatisfied and may even become quite frantic. This is sometimes misdiagnosed as colic.

4. 'Solids should only be introduced at 6 months'

It has become fashionable to only start giving solid foods at around six months. The reality is that this is just an average and anything from double their birth weight is perfectly fine to start introducing baby cereals and the like. Babies grow at different speeds and after four months can differ greatly is size and weight. Generally speaking, the bigger the baby the greater the likelihood that they’ll need solids at a younger age.

5. 'Mothers' diet can cause colic symptoms'

Parents with a fussy or colicky baby will often be concerned that their diet is in some way to blame. They’ve been told to avoid chocolate, wine, dairy and a host of other food stuffs. The truth is that what they eat makes very little difference. If mom has something unusual, it may affect the breastfed baby for a day or so but after that, they assimilate this foodstuff and move on.

6. 'Pacifiers / dummy’s should be avoided'

Some parents have the notion that a pacifier or dummy is undesirable and avoid using them even when faced with a fussy and crying child. There is no proven reason that a pacifier is detrimental in any way. This is another myth about colic. For fussy or colicky babies, it is a far better tool to help control symptoms than medicating or remedies. The suckling reflex is soothing, calming and almost always helps to manage an unhappy baby. It may be necessary to try a few different types because one size most definitely doesn’t fit all!

Sleeping myths and mistakes

Keep them awake? Strict routine? Stomach or not?

sleeping baby

7. Ignoring baby's sleep cues

Babies and toddlers send out signals that they're getting tired and need to go to sleep. these include eye rubbing, yawning, fussiness, slowed activity and loss of interest in playing games. If you miss your child's 'sleep window,' that natural time to sleep, his body won't be releasing calming melatonin. Instead, his adrenal glands will send out a rush of cortisol, a stress-related hormone that could over stimulate your baby, make him 'wired,' and create a second wind. Keep an eye on your little one throughout the day, and chances are you'll see a pattern develop around when he needs to nap and to go to bed each night. If you can't see those signals, go to a dimly lit room when you think sleep time is approaching and start your sleep routine. You may well see the cues begin quite soon after you get there!

8. Keeping baby awake so he’ll sleep longer

Many parents, desperate for sleep, try to keep their baby up later in the hope that they’ll sleep in longer in the morning. In fact, keeping him up later just makes him wake up earlier. A baby who sleeps through the night and goes down at 7:00pm will often stay asleep for 11 or even 12 hours. While it’s not the same for all babies, in general "sleep begets sleep." The internal clock is a powerful force that typically wakes young children up around the same time every morning, no matter what time they go to sleep at night. If your little one is getting up way too early (before 6:00am), it's probably a sign that your child is going to bed too late, so try putting him to bed a little earlier.

9. Babies don't really need a regular bedtime

Consistency is key with babies and children, especially when it comes to sleep. New parents often make the mistake of thinking that a tiny infant can simply fall asleep when he or she is ready to. Sleep schedules are very important for setting our internal clocks and to regulate day and night hormone cycles. A consistent sleep schedule will help a child get sleepy and fall asleep around the same time every day. If the schedule is constantly changing, it's like flying back and forth across time zones every night - the body doesn't know when to fall asleep. Bedtime struggles often result from an inconsistent schedule as parents may be trying to put their children to bed too early (when the child isn't tired) or too late (when the child is overtired).

10. It's fine for baby to sleep wherever they are

It’s easier to let a sleeping baby sleep then to try and move them. the result is that parents often leave their baby to sleep in the car seat, high chair or stroller. the problem with this is that the quality of this sleep is usually not good, especially if there is continual motion (they’re in a car, stroller or swing) or background activity and noise. To develop a good sleep routine, your baby should have a familiar space where he goes to sleep for naps and bedtime at the same time each day. Obviously this won’t always be possible but sticking to this will produce the happiest babies.

11. Swaddling is only useful for a colicky baby

Newborn babies are used to being snuggled up in a nice warm cocoon inside of mom. the first few weeks are a shock to the system and some babies don’t do as well as others. They can kick their arms and hands out in a sort of ‘startle reflex’. The result is often disturbed sleep. By swaddling (wrapping baby up reasonably snuggly) for the first few days or even weeks, the transition can be made a little smoother. It should be done as a routine for all new babies, not just for colicky babies.

12. If baby sleeps on their stomach, they could easily die from SIDS

Most pediatricians concede that when babies are placed on their stomachs, they tend to sleep better, they are less apt to startle and they often sleep through the night sooner. This is especially true for colicky babies. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is a big concern and I’ve devoted a bit more space to it. As the name implies, SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant who is younger than 1 year old. The truth is that no-one knows precisely why SIDS occurs. When considering which babies could be most at risk, no single risk factor is likely to be sufficient to cause a SIDS death. Rather, several risk factors together may explain some cases. The best research comes from the United States and these are 2012 statistics:

  • most deaths due to SIDS occur between 2 and 4 months of age

  • African-American infants are twice as likely

  • Native American infants are about three times more likely

  • more boys than girls fall victim to SIDS

  • smoking, drinking, or drug use during pregnancy

  • poor prenatal care

  • prematurity or low birth weight

  • mothers younger than 20

  • tobacco smoke exposure following birth

  • overheating from excessive sleepwear and bedding

  • stomach sleeping

  • number of live births in US: 3,999,386 and out of these SIDS deaths were 2500.

  • percentage likelihood of SIDS 0.0006%.

In my opinion, if few of the risk factors are present and you are faced with a restless or colicky baby that is suffering, then you should not be worried about letting them sleep on their stomachs. Just make sure their breathing space is not compromised by excessive toys and blankets (as you would for any sleeping environment).

Parenting myths and mistakes

Keep them awake? Strict routine? Stomach or not?

baby sleeping

13. Too many clothes and blankets

Some parents do tend to wrap up their children too much with loads of layers, especially at night, with a baby-grow, sleeping bag and blankets. They mistakenly believe that their baby needs to be much warmer than everyone else in the house. They may also fill baby's crib with ruffled pillows, matching blankets and fluffy toys. This could lead to overheating and discomfort. Be sure to keep the room at a temperature that's comfortable for you at night and make sure the baby's head isn't covered when they sleep. Your baby will soon get used to room temperature and what is comfortable for the rest of the household should be right for them.

14. Too much time in the car seat

A common mistake is to leave baby in their car seat for many hours a day, simply because they are asleep. Typically, after have driven somewhere and having fallen asleep, the parent, not wanting to wake the baby, carries them inside and leaves them there. This becomes a bit of a habit. Because the baby is left for long periods in a squashed up fetal type position, there is a greater chance of gas getting trapped in the intestinal area. This can lead to intestinal colic.

15. Not enough tummy time

From the very early weeks, the parent should start with a few minutes of tummy time (baby lying on their stomach when awake) in both morning and afternoon. tummy time aids in strengthening the neck and back muscles and in the process of trying to lift their head and torso, they use deep abdominal muscles. this helps to keep the digestive system moving and helps to prevent colic and constipation.

16. Overstimulation

Too much, too soon?

Some babies can cope with excessive stimulation at a very early age. but using the television as a babysitter is not a good idea! Keep those educational DVD’s for another year – contrary to what you may believe, they are not helpful in the first year. Likewise, a roomful of strange people with different voices, touch’s and smells can set you up for a bad spell. While you may have put a mobile above your baby's cot for entertaining and stimulating their interest, the rotating toys, sounds and lights can be a distraction at sleep time and should be removed.

17. Taking a newborn to crowded places

Exposing your baby to lots of germy people is a problem not always considered by the new parent who wants to get their baby out into a stimulating environment. While it is impossible to avoid germs, viruses and bacteria completely, the young parent should be careful about exposing their newborn to crowded places where they could easily pick something up. Try not to take the baby to your toddler's preschool and let all of the runny-nosed kids come up and touch him! It would also be a mistake to stay home for six weeks with your newborn. That would be unhealthy for both mom and baby. Rather go for walks outside and stimulate your baby that way. Stick to small groups of friends and family initially. Every week that goes by will allow their immune system time to strengthen.

18. Panicking over anything and everything

Many new parents tend to be a bit panicky and overreact to completely normal baby behavior like is he having too many bowel movements? Or too few? Is she spitting up too much? Is she getting enough to eat or too little? Is my diet affecting him? Is the formula right? Sound familiar? Chances are you are overanxious and are reading too much into what every baby experiences. Babies are far more resilient than we give them credit for – just think how few resources most mothers in the world have and yet they all seem to get it right! Don’t let anxiety spoil this time. If you’re worried, go and see someone and have them put your mind at ease.

19. Not letting your infant cry it out

In general, first time mothers often rush to comfort their baby at the first hint of a cry. Babies cry for a variety of reasons and there are times when they need to simply be left to cry for a few minutes. The trick is to get the balance right – you don’t want a little cry to turn into something frantic. At the same time, you don’t want to teach the baby that crying will get immediate attention (that would become a nightmare at sleep times). If all their basic needs are met and they are just tired, giving them a few minutes may allow them time to self-sooth and go off to sleep. It’s even healthy at times for developing the lungs and getting mucus moving. But if your infant is continually crying and they have a fever, rash, or persistent vomiting, call your pediatrician as soon as possible. If it seems more like trapped wind, use our release techniques to find out how to relieve the causes.

20. Too quick to use medicines and remedies

One of the biggest mistakes I see in my daily practice, is the overuse of remedies for fussiness and colic. Virtually every baby will have a trapped wind at some point. This does not mean you need to run out and get herbal drops or colic remedies. quite often the new parent will visit me with a list of four or five medicines that the baby has already been given. Babies are a lot stronger than we give them credit for and most little cramps, winds and fevers will pass within a day or two. Keep a close eye on the symptoms and give the innate immune system of the body a chance to do its wonderful work.


I hope this little summary has been helpful. A new baby is high maintenance, they take up an extraordinary amount of your emotions, time and effort, so trying to slot a baby into your old life is impossible. Don’t even try to get back to normal too fast. Forget the career for awhile. Forget having the perfect house and body. Focus all your time and love on your baby as these days are long gone before you blink!



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