Colic or Reflux?

By Colleen Brown (Retired Plunket Nurse)


• She cannot settle after her late afternoon or early evening feed and starts screaming as soon as the feed is over, or she falls asleep but wakes crying within half an hour.

• She does not just cry – she screams, drawing her legs up to her tummy, and appears distressed.

• Everything you do seems to help for a minute. She will suck, but then the screaming starts again. Often, wind will stop the screaming momentarily – but it starts again. Being rocked interrupts the screaming for a few seconds. Having her tummy rubbed produces miraculous silence – but it does not last.

• When you interrupt the screaming, the baby remains shaky and sobbing until it starts again.

• The whole episode lasts one to four hours, then it is over for the day.

• A similar pattern repeats itself every day at about the same time, but not at any other time in the 24-hour period.


• He cannot settle after his late or early evening feed, but cries and grumbles on and off for quite a long time before finally going to sleep. Grumbling never means colic.

• His crying is ordinary crying, even if it is hard crying. Drawing his legs up to his tummy is not necessarily a sign of colic – young babies always do that when crying hard

• Something you do brings the crying spell to an end within half an hour. If a feed or a dummy does the trick, the baby was obviously hungry or needed to suck – either way it is not colic. If bringing up wind enables him to sleep, then he had a windy attack, not colic. If rocking and rubbing soothes him, he may have been lonely or tense.

• The baby is calm while you are comforting him. He may cry when you put him to bed, but he is not distressed.

• The episode ends within half an hour and baby sleeps or stays happy for at least 15 minutes before he cries again.

• Occasional screaming spells at any time of the day or night. They may be hard to bear but they are not colic.


• He has continual spilling after feeds, with or without distressed crying.

• There are signs of spilling on his pillowslip or sheet.

• When you pick your baby up from the prone position, he spills a mouthful of milk over you.

• Your baby may grizzle a lot and arch his back in discomfort.

Excerpt from the © TREASURES® BABY BOOK. Used with permission.

Please also see What is Gastric Reflux? – Some babies with reflux rarely vomit at all …

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  • A question please -my daughter has twin girls aged 3 weeks.They were premature born at 35 weeks 3 days.One of them is fine breastfed and sleep.However the other one grunts and groans,pulls her legs up and sometimes cries after each feed.She does not settle well at all.Could this be reflux or what.I know it's early days but my daughter is exhausted!!Any suggestions would be great.Thanks

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  • My 10 week old son is in starship due to heart condition. His omeprizol has just been doubled to try and ease his discomfort with reflux. He is now on twice daily but a nurse said she had heard it was more effective given as a single dose? What are the advantages and disadvantages of a single dose? Sometimes the doctors listen to me and sometimes they dont so id need to have my facts straight if wanting them to change it. He has his omeproxol via ng and gaviscon mixed with pepti junior

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  • My baby is 10weeks (5weeks corrected) and can not sleep on her back at all since this has her coughing and spluttering when not just straight up projectile vomiting. It seems to be worse now she is on thickened formula (alongside omaprozole) esp at night it's like she can't actually spit up the feed anymore (or multiple hours later) as its thicker and therefore she stays choking on it. Does anyone have any nighttime tips it scares me

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  • Hi everyone. I have my second reflux baby (lucky me). She's nine weeks old, spills at least four times per feed, enough to warrant a full change of clothes! She's been on omeprazole (cot also raised) since 5 weeks of age and she's a lovely settled baby now. But, my question for you other parents is how do you handle night feeds? Keely will be lovely relaxed and settled, even asleep and then the spilling starts when she's back in bed. This keeps us up for an hour post feed including changing clothes, cloths under her head etc and of course re settling an over tired baby. I'm a bit rusty. What sort of night feed routine do you follow?

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