The probiotic hope for colic
New international research finds that the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri can help treat breastfed babies less than 3 months old who have colic (and their struggling parents).
The word ‘colic’ can strike fear into the hearts of any parent. But now new research could potentially give hope to those struggling with colic in a newborn baby.
An international study has found that a specific probiotic group is twice as likely as a placebo to reduce crying by 50 per cent after three weeks of treatment for colicky babies who are exclusively breastfed.
While we don’t know what causes colic, we do know it can be hard to handle.
Babies who cry or fuss a lot and can’t be settled are often described as having colic. The condition is defined as “episodes of crying that last for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week, for three weeks, in an otherwise well-fed, healthy child”.
The condition, which affects one in five families, is most common in babies less than three to four months old – and typically goes away over time, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating and distressing for new parents.
And, up until now, there’s been no effective treatment for colic.
The hope comes from a collaborative international study led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), in partnership with 11 other institutions around the world, which found the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteriDSM 17938 has the potential to provide some reduction in crying in exclusively breastfed babies less than three months old.
Dr Valerie Sung, the lead author and paediatrician, says many studies have looked at the role of probiotics in treating colic, but this particular strain shows promise.
Although previous studies of Lactobacillus reuteri for infant colic have shown conflicting results, this collaborative study confirms that Lactobacillus reuteri is effective in reducing crying in breastfed babies with colic - although conclusions cannot be drawn for formula-fed babies.
“Families of exclusively breastfed babies with colic now have an option of trying something that may help, whereas in the past, there really was no effective option available,” says Dr Sung.