Probiotics May Significantly Reduce Colic


Babies cry, and some babies fuss and cry (screech!) for hours every day. Many new parents quickly learn that for some babies, feeding, changing a diaper, adjusting the temperature or cuddling doesn’t make their infant stop wailing. Usually when an infant cries for hours at a time, seemingly in pain, pediatricians tell parents the baby has “colic,” and “Don’t worry, it will go away after three or four months.” To frustrated, sleep-deprived parents, this sounds like an eternity. Parents recoil; tired and frustrated, they scour the web and survey doctors and other parents, searching for something —anything — to end their baby’s discomfort due to infantile colic.


I learned early on, from my own baby and from others in my infant massage classes, that colic is caused by an underdeveloped gastrointestinal system. I developed a “Colic Relief Routine” including massage strokes and yoga postures, that, if done religiously every day, virtually eliminates colic within two weeks. My foundation is not a double-blind study, but years of observation and working directly with parents of colicky babies. They are so relieved that they do not have to wait months for the crying to be finished! This study from Toronto adds to my conclusions about colic, and offers another possible treatment to the mix.

“Infantile colic is one of the major concerns of many parents of babies, and for a long time, doctors and parents alike have struggled with a lack of treatment options to ease colic symptoms in early infancy,” says Dr. Gideon Koren, Director of Motherisk and Senior Scientist at SickKids hospital. “It is critical to evaluate natural products, such as probiotics, with the same scientific rigor used for medicinal drugs. Using these rigorous methods, we have shown that this probiotic can help infants.”

An estimated five to 40 per cent of infants experience colic, typically ending at about three or four months. Babies with colic usually cry, seemingly in pain, at least three hours a day, more than three days in a week over at least three weeks, with no obvious trigger.

New research led by the Motherisk Program at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) shows for the first time that probiotics can significantly reduce colic in North American infants. The study assessed the effectiveness of Lactobacillius reuteri DSM 17938 in treating infantile colic in exclusively breastfed Canadian babies.

While recognized by the medical community for centuries, the cause of infantile colic remains “unknown” by the pediatric community, with theories ranging from overproduction of intestinal gas to insecure parental attachment. Some research has pointed to a potential role of the intestinal microbiota, microorganisms that include “good bacteria,” which differ greatly between infants with colic and those without. Some babies with colic have also been shown to have inadequate levels of a type of good bacteria (probiotic) called lactobacilli in early infancy.The research team at SickKids and in pediatric clinics in Toronto conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial from February 2012 to April 2014. For 21 days, 52 babies were given a five-drop dose, once per day at the same time of day. Parents or caregivers were asked to refrain from other modes of medications for consoling the baby.

At the end of the treatment period, the probiotic group exhibited a significantly shorter duration of crying and fussing (60 minutes per day), versus the placebo group (102 minutes per day). More than half of the probiotic group had experienced a reduction in colic symptoms by the end of the study period, with some babies showing a statistically significant improvement as early as seven days after beginning treatment. The probiotic was well tolerated, and no side-effects were reported in either group.

Founded in 1875 and affiliated with the University of Toronto, SickKids is one of Canada’s most research-intensive hospitals and has generated discoveries that have helped children globally. Its mission is to provide the best in complex and specialized family centered care; pioneer scientific and clinical advancements; share expertise; foster an academic environment that nurtures health-care professionals; and champion an accessible, comprehensive and sustainable child health system.

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— Vimala McClure