Alaska Sleep Education Center

Colic and Sleep

Posted by Stefanie Leiter

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on May 20, 2020 1:20:00 PM

Colic makes this little one fussy.

As new or repeat parents, you already are taking a lot on with a new life: feeding, sleeping, pooping, and napping are the essentials. But a lot of times, parents believe if they are unable to achieve perfection they have failed their children.

It is important to remember that no parent is perfect and every newborn has different needs. Colic doesn’t have a prescribed newborn: it can be a formula-fed or breastfed baby, a boy or girl, and a preterm or full-term baby. Without a clear diagnosis, a few theories on causes for colic include:

  • An immature digestive system. Digesting food is a big task for a baby's brand new gastrointestinal system. As a result, food may pass through too quickly and not break down completely, resulting in pain from gas in the intestines.


  • Infant acid reflux. Research has found that infant GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is sometimes a colic trigger often as the result of an underdeveloped lower esophageal sphincter, the muscle that keeps stomach acid from flowing back up into the throat and mouth, which can irritate the esophagus. Symptoms include frequent spitting up, poor eating, and irritability during and after feedings.


  • Food allergies or sensitivity. Some experts believe that colic is the result of an allergy to milk protein (or lactose intolerance) in formula-fed babies. More rarely, colic may be a reaction to specific foods in Mom’s diet in breastfed babies. Either way, these allergies or sensitivity can cause tummy pain that may set off colicky behavior.

Colic and Sleep Infographic


Sleep problems are common in infants and older kids. Knowing how to address them is critical to getting a restful night. Infants can be a handful in the first three months, but once you develop a routine, the baby's brain is conditioned to sleeping for long hours. The same strategy applies to older kids; however, if they are exhibiting particular sleep problems (insomnia, bedwetting, among others), you may need to examine their daytime routines.

Alaska Sleep Clinic is one of the only sleep labs in Alaska with a Pediatric Medical Director, Dr. Harry Yuan, a Pediatric Cardiologist.  Read more about Dr.Yuan here. The great news is that if your little one has a sleep disorder, diagnosing and treating it now leads to healthy big kids and adults.

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Topics: baby, colic, getting better sleep

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