In a recent study published in JAMA, researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Institute and Royals Children Hospital examined the use of priobiotics (Lactobacillus reuterl) to prevent or treat excessive crying. Results from the study still lacked sufficient evidence to demonstrate that probiotic use improved the crying in formula fed babies. However, the study did suggest that probiotic use could be an effective treatment plan for colicky babies who are breastfed exclusively.
Mothers all have war stories about their child’s infant days, especially if the infant didn’t sleep through the night. There are books and techniques out to address a colicky baby. Colic is defined as “crying for more than three hours a day, three days a week for more than three weeks in an otherwise well-fed, healthy baby.”
Comforting a colicky baby can be distressing to the family and researchers are continuing to look for ways to reduce the amount of inconsolable crying. According to the Mayo Clinic, colic can affect as many as 25% of babies. Typically it is relatively short lived. The long bouts of crying starts from birth and generally improves around 3 months. If you are concerned about your infant, consult with your pediatrician to come up with a plan. Your pediatrician will make sure your baby is healthy and thriving and give some recommendations to try and alleviate the crying. New research suggest probiotics may reduce crying time or prevent crying bouts in babies with colic.
Probiotics are commonly added to infant formula. How effective are the probiotics? Led by Valerie Sung, researchers conducted a systematic review of 12 trials that randomized over 1800 infants ages 3 months or younger. The infants received either the probiotic or placebo or they either received standard treatment or no treatment. 7 of the trials examined the role of probiotics in colic prevention, while the other 5 trials examined the effectiveness of probiotics in treating colic.
Of the 12 trials reviewed, the study showed 6 trials reduced crying and 6 trials that did not. Three of the five management trials showed probiotic use to effectively treat breastfed babies with colic. One trial suggested possible effectiveness in formula fed babies with colic and another suggested probiotic used was ineffective in treating colicky breastfed babies. In 3 small trials of breastfed babies with colic, researchers found that lactobacillus reuteri significantly reduced crying time at 21 days.
Little is known as to what causes colic and the only definitive treatment is time. The use of probiotics with colic is spurred by several small studies that suggest a baby’s stomach bacteria could help spur colic. In a small study published in January 2013 of Pediatrics, researchers found that infants with colic developed certain intestinal bacteria later than those without the colic. Without the right combination of intestinal flora, the infant can experience more abdominal pain and inflammation.
This study looked at 200 fecal samples of 12 babies with colic and a control group of 12 low level cryers. The fecal was tested for over 1000 known intestinal microbes. They found significant differences in microbial flora between the two groups.
While this study demonstrates a significant difference in microbial flora between the babies with or without colic, the researchers are quick to say that the study is intriguing but not definitive. The use of probiotics “might” alleviate colic but a mother’s diet during pregnancy and breast- feeding may also be significant factors.
Sung concludes that more randomized clinical studies need to be conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of probiotics on breastfed and formula fed babies with colic. Moreover, more studies are also needed to examine the prevention of colic in healthy term babies.