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May 16, 2021

Hope for parents of babies with colic

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Giving a probiotic to a breastfed baby with colic can significantly reduce the time they cry, research has found.

The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) study, published in journal Pediatrics, provides some hope to the one in five parents suffering from the impact of a baby’s unexplained, excessive crying.

“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.

As expected, both groups of babies reduced crying over the three weeks but the reduction in crying time was 13 to 15 minutes greater per day for the probiotic group, said Dr Sung.

All babies cry. But when the baby cries inconsolably for hours on end, they may have what the medical profession calls colic.

In the absence of effective treatments, researchers over the past decade have turned to one particular strain of probiotic, Lactobacillus reduteri (L reuteri).

Studies have shown “promise” but the results have been conflicting, says Dr Sung
.

To confirm if the probiotic works, the MCRI collaborated with 11 other institutions around the world to assess its effectiveness.

Researchers did this by combining raw data from four major double-blind placebo controlled L reuteri trials, from Italy, Poland, Canada and Australia.

The Australian trial showed L reuteri to be ineffective, however when combined with the other three trials, it was clear that L reuteri worked for exclusively breastfed babies.

“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,” said Dr Sung.

One hypothesis is that the probiotics change the gut microbiota or flora and in doing so reduce inflammation and therefore reduce crying.

While not a “magic cure” this probiotic could be considered for short-term use after all medical causes for the crying have been excluded, says Dr Sung.

“Ultimately the effectiveness of this treatment will need to be assessed on a case by case basis. It is also important to remember that each probiotic strain works differently. L reuteri is the only probiotic strain that may help crying babies who are breastfed.”

The study was supported by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics.


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