The Cause of Colic

I don't believe in "colic".

I believe that babies are crying, that babies are distressed, that babies need our help and support. 

I fundamentally disagree with the definition that a colicky baby is crying for no reason. 

Equally, I think Purple Crying is another useless term.

In fact, I believe that both colic and purple crying are phrases coined to allow the medical profession to ignore crying babies.

They are terms coined by modern society to allow us to look past a crying baby. The fact that there is no "apparent" reason for the crying just means we are looking in the wrong place.


If you were lucky enough and the "colic" stopped by the time baby was 12 weeks old, consider yourself lucky. You got yourself a baby who's digestive system is maturing very well.

So what is colic and what is purple crying?

Both terms: colic, and purple crying; teach us that sometimes babies do cry, inconsolably, for hours on end, for weeks and perhaps months; and this is okay because they will “grow out of it”.

 You see, babies cry to communicate. It is up to us, their parents, to figure out why they are crying.

Babies always have a reason for crying. Sometimes that reason will be the need for a hug, or the smell or closeness of mum, sometimes that cry will be for rest, sleep, a quiet space; and sometimes that cry is of constant discomfort, pain, distress.

And the parent of a baby with colic knows that the crying has to have a reason. 

Colic is officially defined as “crying for 3 hours a day, at least 3 days a week, for at least 3 weeks”. This is the most unhelpful definition. If your baby is screaming for 3 hours in a day, there is something wrong. It could be that their “routine” is out of sync with their needs, are they getting overstimulated too often and therefore too tired? Are they reacting to something in their food and so are uncomfortable and trying to tell you this? Where there is a repeatable pattern like this, there is a reason. In my work, I have always found that colic is associated with digestive discomfort, and this is 100% resolvable with the right support.


Purple Crying is defined as a period of development from 2 weeks to 3 or 4 months of age when your baby will cry more. The word PURPLE defines the expression of this crying as “Peak of crying (at 2 months), Unexpected, Resists Soothing, Pain-Like Face, Long Lasting, and Evening crying more frequent”. 

It allows parents to think that inconsolable crying is “normal” and that they need do nothing about. It teaches parents to neglect their instincts of interpreting their own baby’s crys. It allows parents to believe that they can and should do nothing to support their baby during this ‘phase’. 

The truth is, that purple crying is just another phrase to get parents and professionals off the hook for really paying attention to babies and trusting that babies have feelings and can communicate, albeit using their own primitive language 

And what is Colic?

We get the answers in our baby's actions. When we observe them. 95% of babies with colic finally get relief when they pass wind. (HINT)
That colic is helped by probiotics (see my only recommendation of probiotics here) also points us in the perfect direction for an answer to What Causes Colic? 

And the final piece of the jigsaw comes when we realise that our babies are born immature. They cannot walk when they are born, They cannot talk. They can see very poorly. And when we extend this knowledge to their digestive system we find out that the suite of digestive enzymes that they produce in the early months of life are VERY different from those they grow into. In fact, they cannot break down complex carbohydrates or complex proteins, and these food groups then ferment in baby's gut causing and creating wind and trapped air.

So the answer... 

Colic is caused by the combination of your baby's naturally immature digestive system and the milk they are drinking - or in particular, something in the milk they are drinking. 

Now it could be that your baby has reflux rather than colic. I was told my baby had colic for 5 months because my doctor didn't want to listen to me. Turns out my baby had silent reflux

And hope shouldn't fade at this stage. Because you know what causes reflux, you can do something about it.

Subscribe to my mailing list for your FREE guide:12 Questions to Ask Your GP about Medications for Reflux


What cures Colic?

What can you do about it?

Well, it starts with understanding the true cause and nature of what is going on and then tackling that. 

The Cause & Cure of Reflux Workshop details how to read all of your baby's symptoms and behaviours, irrespective of whether it is reflux or colic, because they have so much overlap.

Colic is often mistaken for reflux and vice-versa because of the presentation. 

And as you know already, I don't believe in colic, so I call them all reflux! (oops me) 

The Dangers of Colic and Purple Crying?

For me, the real danger lies in ignoring our babies. The terms colic and purple crying allow medics to tell parents that inconsolable crying is “normal” and that they need do nothing about.

They teach us to neglect our instincts of interpreting our own baby’s crys. It allows medics to believe that they can and should do nothing to support babies who cry. It allows medics to ignore parents. It allows medics to accuse parents of being paranoid, neurotic and the colic "being in your head". This sort of care is unfair, it negates a doctors duty of care and in my honest opinion, borders on neglect. 

The truth is, that purple crying is just another phrase to get professionals off the hook for really paying attention to babies and trusting that babies have feelings and can communicate, albeit using their own primitive language.

And when we leave our baby's crying in pain for extended periods of time, what is going to happen?

Because what will baby "grow out" of? 

Will they grow out of asking for help? 

Will they grow out of trusting their parents?

Will they grow out of believing they have a voice? 

If this is the sort of teaching we want to give our babies then I don't want to be a part of this parenting life. 


Truthfully, I do not believe that any parent wants to teach these things to their baby. And so when you listen to your gut instinct, to hold your baby for hours on end, when you refuse to accept the crappy answers you've been given, when you cry with your baby, you are teaching them love.

Pure, honest love.

You are teaching them that your response is not to give up. You're teaching them that they can choose how to respond to anything life throws at them. You are teaching them that no matter what, you are there for them, with them. You are teaching them that they have feelings, you are providing important validity to their feelings and emotions. You are saying "I hear you, I see you're in pain, I will do everything I can". 

And even if that everything is nothing more than holding them and supporting them, this is a lot. 

As long as you don't leave them alone hour after hour, night after night and week after week like the doctor says, you are teaching them that love and care and compassion and kindness are the most valuable responses to anything in life.

If you want all the detail on what to look for, what do about it, what help to ask for and from whom, then grab yourself a copy of my book The Baby Reflux Lady's Survival Guide. Click here to know more.




Over the last two years, the official definition of colic has started to change, that it is not always attributed to unexplainable crying.

However, I have used the Rule of Three's in this post because while research is moving forwards, our GP's are not there yet. Did you know the average delay for medical research to become practice is 17 years? So this post is written from the point of view of what you are likely to hear from your doctor. The Rule of Three's is still used by the UK NHS, used by the British Medical Journal in their Best Practice database and the UK's NICE guidelines which are the basis of how GP's treat infants in the UK.

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