If you have a baby with colic, you know that you can try everything—rocking, feeding, swaddling, giving them a pacifier. And still. They. Just. Won’t. Stop. Crying. Colic, which is a condition where an otherwise healthy infant cries for three or more hours a day for at least three days a week for three weeks, is one of the most exhausting and frustrating things a new parent can deal with—especially because no one really understands what causes it or how to put an end to it. But a new study suggests that probiotics could offer some relief.
The meta-analysis, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, found that a specific strain of probiotic (Lactobacillus reuteri DSM17938) can help to relieve colic in breastfed babies. The research looked at four double-blind trials involving 345 colicky babies who took either the oral probiotic or a placebo and found that those given the healthy bacteria spent significantly less time crying and fussing.Canadian babies cry more than other babies and we think we know why
Colicky babies and probiotics
After a week of taking probiotics (which are sometimes given to infants via a dropper), babies were crying about 21 minutes less, and by three weeks, parents enjoyed 25 more minutes of peace and quiet. It may not seem like a lot, but those few extra minutes can be a big deal when you’re exhausted and worried about what’s making your baby scream non-stop. Plus, researchers also found that babies who took probiotics were twice as likely to have “treatment success,” which they defined as a 50 percent reduction in crying.
Still, it’s probably not the miracle cure for colic that parents are hoping for. First of all, we still don’t really understand what’s causing all the crying. In a commentary that ran with the study, researcher Ian St James-Roberts writes that though there’s some evidence to suggest that colicky babies have different gut microbiota, we still don’t know for sure that colic is related to a gastrointestinal issue. And though many assume that colicky babies are in pain, the evidence doesn’t support it, so some doctors may still choose to wait colic out—after all, time is the only known cure. Finally, the probiotic might not offer relief for all babies. Babies’ microbiomes vary based on where they live, and differ whether they’re breastfed or formula-fed. The meta-analysis, which mainly looked at breastfed babies, calls for further research to determine if the probiotic strain could also help formula-fed babies.
Still, if you’re on hour three of listening to your baby scream, take some comfort in hearing this: There is something that may help relieve your baby’s crying, and it’s worth talking to your doctor about whether a probiotic might just help your little one.
Stay in touch
Subscribe to Today's Parent's daily newsletter for our best parenting news, tips, essays and recipes.