Scientists find probiotics could help settle some babies with colic

crying newborn boy

A small study across groups of babies in four different countries has found that giving a particular probiotic to colicky babies may help reduce the amount of time they cry each day.

Lactobacillus Reduteri

Researchers used Lactobacillus reduteri (L reuteri), in an effort to calm crying bubs, and found that breastfed babies in particular benefited from this probiotic strain.

All babies administered the probiotic cried less than those who weren’t, but the breastfed babies reduction in crying time was between 13 and 15 minutes greater than those who were formula-fed.

“In this study we had 345 babies and we found that the probiotic group was twice as likely as the placebo group to experience a 50 per cent reduction in crying over three weeks,” said lead author, Dr Valerie Sung.

Colic describes regular bouts of crying in babies who are otherwise healthy. It affects one in five infants, and is distressing for parents and babies. Nobody knows exactly what causes colic, but researchers have been exploring the use of probiotics in an effort to treat the exhausting condition and make babies happier for around a decade. Even a 15 minute reduction is a godsend to the tired parents of these unsettled bubs.

Gut feeling

This latest probiotic vs colic research was a bit of a super-study, involving The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) and eleven other institutions from around the world. Researchers combined data from four major double-blind placebo controlled L reuteri trials, taken from Italy, Poland, Canada and Australia.

“We did find evidence that L reuteri is effective in breastfed babies with colic. The role of L reuteri in formula-fed babies with colic cannot be determined due to lack of studies,” Dr Sung explained.

It’s thought that the probiotic might alter the gut’s microbiota or flora, reducing inflammation and consequently, reducing crying.

“See a doctor”

While there is still much work to be done, Dr Sung says this sort of treatment may be a short-term solution  to treating colic, when all other medical avenues have been exhausted.

“Parents who are worried about their baby’s crying should still see a doctor to check that there is no underlying medical cause for their baby’s crying,” Dr Sung explained to ScienceAlert. 

“If parents are still keen to try something for their baby, then this probiotic [Lactobacillus reduteri/L reuteri] is the best option for those who are breastfed. It should be given directly to the baby as five drops a day for three weeks.”

This news will come as welcome and promising relief for wits-end parents exhausted by their baby’s crying. We’ll be following this story closely, for future developments.

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