Why I Don't Believe in Infant Colic or Purple Crying

infant colic, purple crying and baby reflux


I don't believe in "colic".

And I'll tell you why...

I believe that babies are crying, that babies are distressed, and 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.

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


So what is colic, and what is purple crying?

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.


Colic is typically 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.

Over the last two years, the definition has started to change, and it is not always attributed to unexplainable crying.

However, while research is moving forward, our GPs 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. 

If your baby is screaming for 3 hours 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

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)
Resists Soothing
Pain-Like Face
Long Lasting
Evening crying is more frequent

It allows parents to think that inconsolable crying is “normal” and that they need to do nothing about it.

It teaches parents to neglect their instincts to interpret their own baby’s cries.

It allows parents to believe that they can and should do nothing to support their baby during this ‘phase’. 

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”.


The parent of a baby with colic (or so-called "purple crying") knows that the crying has to have a reason. 

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, or a quiet space; and sometimes, that cry is of constant discomfort, pain, and distress.


And what actually 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. That's a clue to something else going on!

The fact 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.

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 the baby's gut, causing and creating wind and trapped air.

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! 


The Dangers of Colic or Purple Crying

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

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 doctor's 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 not really paying attention to babies and not trusting that babies have feelings and can communicate, albeit using their own primitive language.

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

Because what will the 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.

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 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.


What cures colic?

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

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! The approach we can take is exactly the same.


So, how can I help?

In the 'Reflux Free Baby' Workshop, I walk you through all the symptoms you need to observe and record for your baby, what they mean, and how to use them as clues.

I tell you what the clues mean individually and when they occur with other groups of symptoms. 

And this leads us to be able to say what is causing each baby's reflux with much more confidence. 

Based on this, I tell you what specific action to take for them.

To get your baby free from their reflux as quickly as possible, sign up now. You will have your answer within an hour.

Áine x


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