With its sleepless nights and frustration, every parent dreads colic. Fortunately, scientists have been hopeful that a specific probiotic, Lactobacillus reuteri may help improve symptoms of colic in babies. The buzz started in 2014 when a study from Aldo Moro University in Italy looked at what happened when babies took L. reuteri as a probiotic during the first three months of life. Could colic be prevented entirely or improved with the use of L. reuteri?
A baby is considered “colicky” when they cry for more than three hours each day and when there is no other medical issue causing the crying. Colic usually starts after the third week and peaks at weeks 4-6. Symptoms usually become less severe by the sixth week and disappear around the 12th week of life.
In the study, giving newborns the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri for the first three months of life appeared to reduce colic caused by gastrointestinal problems. The supplement was associated with fewer bouts of crying and stomach discomfort compared to a placebo.
Over 500 newborns in Italy took part in the study. Parents were asked to record the number of vomiting episodes and bowel movements, the duration of inconsolable crying, and number of pediatrician visits.
The infants who received a probiotic showed a reduction in crying time, vomiting, and frequency of bowel movements compared to the placebo group, according to the researchers. Since that study was published (January 2014 in JAMA Pediatrics), there has been a big effort to study this probiotic. In January 2018, a Meta Analysis of several studies was published in the journal Pediatrics, the results indicated that there is good evidence to recommend the use of L. reuteri by breastfed babies with colic.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, December 2018
- A colicky baby cries for more than 3 hours a day and peaks between the 4th and 6th weeks of life.
- Giving breastfed newborns probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri was associated with reduced symptoms of colic in an article published in the journal Pediatrics in 2018.
- The FDA has not approved any health claims for probiotics.