Probiotics Didn’t Soothe Colicky Babies

Probiotics did not reduce colic in formula or breast fed babies

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Not being able to soothe a baby with colic, a condition in which the baby cries continually, can be frustrating. Would changing the baby’s diet would help prevent the colic?

Infants with colic are reported to have more gas-producing bacteria in their gut, and that gas causes discomfort that results in crying and fussing. Probiotics, similar to the good bacteria found in yogurt, can reduce these gas-producing bacteria.

A recent study of infants with colic showed that probiotics did not reduce colic in infants. In fact, there was more fussing among those treated with probiotics.

"Consult your pediatrician before changing your baby’s diet."

Valerie Sung, MPH, a pediatrician from the Royal Children’s Hospital in Victoria, Australia, led the research team who conducted this study.

Infants younger than 13 weeks old with colic were included in this study. The babies cried or fussed for three or more hours a day, at least three days out of seven. The researchers noted which babies in the study were fed formula and which ones were breastfed.

A total of 85 infants were treated with the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri (L. reuteri), given in five drops a day for one month, while 82 infants were treated with drops that contained a sugar liquid (placebo).

The research team measured the presence of L. reuteri in stool samples of the infants. They also surveyed the babies’ caregivers to get information on how much the babies cried and fussed, as well as impact of the baby’s colic on family life.

Both the group that received probiotics and the one that did not showed a steady reduction in crying and fussing over the six months of the study. However, the probiotic group fussed more at all times measured between seven days and one month than the group who received sugar drops.

After one month of treatment, the infants who received probiotic drops fussed for an average of 153 minutes a day, while the babies who did not get the probiotic fussed for an average of 112 minutes per day. Babies fed formula fussed or cried an average of 78 minutes more a day than the babies fed sugar drops.

At one month, the probiotic group slept less than the group who did not receive the probiotic. The infants who got probiotics slept for an average of 800 minutes per day, while the ones who did not get probiotics slept 842 minutes a day.

At six months, the amount of crying and fussing between the two groups was not different.

Amounts and kinds of bacteria in the stool samples of the infants were similar.

The authors noted several limitations of their study. Since the caregivers gave the drops, the researchers could not determine if the babies were given the correct amount of the probiotic. It was also possible that the dose of probiotic was not high enough to reduce colic. Additionally, the babies in this study were recruited from urgent care settings, so the results of the study might not apply to all babies with colic.

The authors summarized their findings, saying, “... [T]reatment with Lactobacillus reuteri did not reduce crying or fussing, nor was it effective in improving infant sleep, maternal mental health, family or infant functions, or quality of life.”

“Further research is needed to identify which subgroups of infants with colic may benefit from probiotics," these authors wrote.

This research was published April 1 in BMJ.

Funding for the study was provided by the Georgina Menzies Maconachie Charitable Trust.

The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
April 2, 2014
Last Updated:
April 3, 2014