The first three or so months entails a whole heap of troubleshooting, problem solving, learning your baby’s cues and getting to know their little personality.  One of the biggest challenges my clients come to me with in this time is unsettled behaviour.  Parents describe behaviours such as persistent crying, grimacing, tummy pain, wind, vomiting, wanting to be held and sleeping poorly.  Many parents aren’t prepared for this behaviour when they have a baby, so when they come for their appointments, they genuinely feel that something might be wrong with their baby.


What causes unsettled behaviour in newborn babies?

For the most part, newborn babies are unsettled because they are immature, particularly their gastrointestinal system.  They go from eating a small amount of amniotic fluid in your tummy to drinking almost a litre of milk a day.   Babies take a few months to come to terms with having a full belly, the feelings of digestion, farting and pooing.   Babies are also accustomed to the environment of the womb; that is, they are curled up nice and tight, warm, right up against mum’s heartbeat.  This is the position most newborns would like to remain for the first couple of months.  So, when parents try to put their baby down – they will often cry or wake.


Does my baby have ‘colic’?

Colic is basically the word we use describe the above behaviour – so I suppose he does, yes.  Most babies are ‘coliccy’ at some point in time.


Does my baby have reflux?

All babies vomit.  Their little tummy muscles are weak and struggle to hold down a full belly of milk.  If your baby is “a happy chucker” – that is, they vomit and are not distressed with it, they probably don’t have reflux.  Classic reflux symptoms include large projectile vomits that seem painful for a baby, poor growth and a baby who always wants to be held upright.   Reflux can be diagnosed by a GP or Paediatrician and can be treated with anti-acid medication.


Is my baby lactose intolerant?

Lactose intolerance occurs when a baby is born with a deficiency of the enzyme lactase which breaks down the lactose in breastmilk or formula.  It is really, really uncommon.  Lactose is the sugar component of milk and is present in breastmilk whether the mother consumes dairy products or not.  Babies with lactose intolerance generally have frothy green poos, terrible wind and they grow poorly.  A baby like this would need to be under medical supervision.


Is my baby “allergic” to my milk?

More commonly, babies can have dietary intolerances which cause them to have an allergic reaction to either a food in his mother’s diet or the cow’s milk protein in formula.   Babies who are having a severe allergy to breastmilk or formula will be really unsettled around the clock, have widespread eczema on their skin and grow poorly.  It is not recommended to eliminate whole food groups (eg/ dairy) without medical guidance.   The most common allergy causing food groups in infants are dairy, soy, nuts, seafood and wheat.


Should I avoid certain foods?  Onion? Garlic? Caffeine

Everything in moderation is fine for most babies.   If they are going to be unsettled they will be regardless of your diet.


The Bottom Line?  Unsettled behaviour is a normal part of having a newborn baby.    Being prepared for this to happen and having some tools and support to manage the unsettled behaviour is going to be most useful for getting through that time.   If you have realistic expectations about normal newborn behaviour and you are still concerned – have your baby checked out by a health care professional!



I hope this article helps you to ‘Stress Less’ and enjoy your baby!

Check out the unsettled baby/colic chapter of my book The Stress Less Baby Guide at


You may also like to read:

Preparing for a newborn

Hygiene in the home with a baby

Bringing baby home. Now what?