Colic in breastfed or formula fed babies


Regardless of whether you are breastfeeding or formula feeding, colic in babies can be unpredictable in nature. As baby colic seems to be caused by gastrointestinal pain, assessing both digestive function bubs diet (formula or breastmilk) can help to pinpoint the underlying cause and hopefully provide symptom relief.

What can cause colic in breastfed babies?

Despite breastmilk containing lots of essential microbes, breastfed bubs may still have a microbial imbalance in their gut, contributing to symptoms of colic in babies. This is particularly true if the mother has an imbalanced gut microbiome.

Another factor to consider is the potential for dietary antigens in mum’s diet to be causing an allergy or intolerance reaction in baby via breastmilk.

What foods can cause colic in breastfed babies?

Baby colic

Foods that cause colic in breastfed babies include common allergenic and intolerant foods such as:

  • dairy
  • eggs
  • soy
  • fish
  • peanuts
  • tree nuts
  • wheat [1]
  • FODMAPS [2]

FODMAPS refer to a group of fermentable carbohydrates, with the acronym being for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. The most common FODMAP foods that can cause colic in breastfed babies include:

  • onion
  • garlic
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • Brussel sprouts
  • legumes (beans, lentils)

Diet for colic relief

Before removing any foods from your diet it’s important to consult with a registered dietitian to ensure you are not missing out on vital nutrients. A dietitian will help you to identify which foods may be causing a reaction in your bub, and how you can safely remove these foods from your diet.

What formula is best for colic babies?

Baby formula that contains prebiotics such as galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) may help to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in the baby’s gut. Prebiotics in baby formula have been shown to promote digestive function by providing a stool softening effect [3].

Another option for formula-fed infants is an allergy formula consisting of hydrolyzed milk protein, which has been shown to reduce crying time in colicky infants [4]. However, it is advised to consult with a pediatrician or pediatric allergist for advice before using allergy formulations.


  1. Hill, David et al. Pediatrics. 116. e709-15. 10.1542/peds.2005-0147.
  2. Iacovou M et al. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2018 Apr;31(2):256-265.
  3. Moro et al. Acta Paediatr Suppl. 2003 Sep;91(441):77-9.
  4. Gordon M et al. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018 Oct 10;10(10):CD011029.

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