Account & More
profile picture of Kylie McConville
Kylie McConville

Probiotics Probably Won’t Soothe Baby’s Colic—What To Try Instead

New findings from a study published in the journal BMJ found that giving colicky babies probiotics most likely won't help his condition. Even though colic affects about 20 percent of babies, researchers don't yet understand exactly what causes it. Previous studies had l inked probiotics as a way to soothe baby's colic, but the latest findings prove otherwise.

To determine how probiotics affected a group of infants, Dr. Valerie Sung, a pediatrician at the Royal Parkville Hospital in Australia, held a "blinded experiment" where she and her colleagues randomly assinged 167 breastfed and formula-fed infants to receive an L. reuteri supplement or a placebo for a month. In previous studies, Lactobacillus reuteri (a probiotic supplement) was actually found to improve stomach problems and colic in newborns. However, the trials were not conducted through blind studies, which meant that parents knew they were giving their babies probiotics. Sung's aim this time around was to blindly test whether or not the probiotic supplement actually worked.

In conjunction with the study, parents were also asked to report on their babies' instances of fussing and crying at various points, up to six months later. Researchers analyzed family well-being and adjustment, as well as the mother's maternal mental health. They found that in both groups, the placebo and the supplement, saw a decrease in crying over time, but babies who had been given the probiotic supplement fussed for an average of 49 minutes more per day than the placebo group did. According to the results, they also found that the probiotic group babies were had been formula-fed were particularly fussy.

Sung and her team added that the probiotic also showed no benefits for familial or maternal well-being, or on infant sleep. Most importantly, the probiotic supplement didn't alter the babies' gut bacterial compositions (which meant it had no effect on the colic).

According to the new results, researchers believe that parents in previous studies had overestimated the benefit of the treatment. Since they knew that their children were receiving probiotic supplements, they just assumed that it was working.

So what can you do if baby's got colic? Although the incessant crying may make you feel helpless, rest assured that colic isn’t an indication of something more serious or something that you’re doing wrong. In fact, colic affects between 10 to 25 percent of infants, and it should taper off by four months of age. While no one knows for sure what causes colic — allergies, immature digestion,  milk supply problems — there are ways you can help soothe baby. Babies love to suck, so a  pacifier will help calm them down. Rock them along to calming white noise created by a fan or vacuum. Try laying them flat on your chest to help the gas escape or placing them in a car seat above a running washing machine for the vibrations. And always contact your doctor if you have questions.

How did you soothe your colicky baby?

PHOTO: Margaret Vincent