Colic is the term used to describe intense, uncontrollable crying in a healthy young baby. It is quite common, affecting sixteen percent (16%) of infants studied. It is difficult, if not impossible, to soothe a colicky baby and the crying jags can continue for several hours.
A great friend sent me the link to a recent story published on National Public Radio (NPR), Can Probiotics Sooth a Colicky Baby?. As a parent of a newborn, she was very interested to read that colic can possibly be prevented or improved by giving a baby probiotics. Furthermore she knows that this topic is dear to my heart. Following a round of antibiotics when he was only two weeks old, my son became very colicky and soon thereafter became a problematically picky eater. We believe that the antibiotics that we gave him at an early age upset the establishment of good bacteria in his digestive tract and that subsequently triggered other problems (you can read more about it here and here).
The NPR article highlights how devastating colic can be for parents who are already struggling with sleep deprivation and the anxiety of recent parenthood. The author, Rob Stein, cites colic as a cause of serious depression for parents. However, the article gives some very encouraging news. There have been recent medical studies that have found that giving probiotics to colicky babies can improve their symptoms and possibly prevent it in the first place.
If you are interested in delving in deeper into the science on this topic, I recommend reading an article describing recent research on colic and probiotics published in the JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association) Pediatrics study, which is mentioned in this NPR story. Dr. Flavia Indrio and her colleagues found that giving a daily dose of Lactobacillus reuteri (a probiotic) to brand new babies (less than one week old), even before they show colic symptoms, seems to prevent colic from developing.
The researchers kept up the daily probiotic dose for three months. The researchers also looked at the issues of constipation and regurgitations (spitting-up) in the same study. One randomly chosen group of babies received five drops of the formulation that contained sunflower oil and one hundred million (100,000,000) colony-forming units of L reuteri (a probiotic) and the control group received five drops of the oil only.
After ninety days, the infants who received the probiotic showed significantly decreased crying time, significantly increased evacuation (bowel movement) frequency and significantly reduced regurgitations (spitting-up) than did the control group. At the end of the study, the group that received the probiotic had significantly fewer pediatric emergency department visits, fewer lost parental working days, and less use of treatments to reduce abdominal discomfort than the control group. If you are a parent living with a colicky infant you can appreciate that this is pretty exciting research!
There are currently infant probiotics on the market, some of which contain the probiotic L. reuteri, in the same concentration as the researchers above studied. Listen to or read the NPR story here.
We would love to hear from you in the comments below if you have tried them with your baby and what, if anything, you noticed.