Probiotic could halve crying time for breastfed babies with colic, study finds

Published: 03 January 2018

New study gives hope to parents with babies suffering from colic

Researchers in Melbourne are giving some hope to parents of newborns suffering from colic, with a new study finding a certain probiotic could reduce symptoms in some babies.

The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) led the international study in collaboration with 11 other global institutions, which found the probiotic, known as Lactobacillus reuteri, could potentially reduce crying in babies less than three months old, who are breastfed. 

By the third week of treatment crying could potentially be reduced by 50 per cent, according to the research. 

The study also found that the probiotic group was two times more likely to halve crying than the placebo group. 

Lead author and paediatrician Dr Valerie Sung said while the results were promising they should not be considered as an “automatic cure” for the condition, which affects about one in five families. 

“Ultimately the effectiveness of this treatment will need to be assessed on a case by case basis,” Dr Sung said. 

“It is also important to remember that each probiotic strain works differently.”

The exact cause of colic is largely unexplained and until now there has been no effective treatment for the condition which is attributed to babies who cry or fuss for prolonged periods and cannot be settled, several days a week. 

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics collected data from trials in Italy, Poland, Canada and Australia.

The Australian trial led by Dr Sung was the only trial which included both breastfed and formula-fed babies which showed the probiotic to be ineffective. However, when combined with the other trials L reuteri was shown to be effective for exclusively breastfed babies, according to MCRI. 

Dr Sung said the effect of the probiotic on formula-fed babies could not yet be determined because of lack of studies. 

Colic can be distressing for parents as well as babies and has been linked to maternal depression, Shaken Baby Syndrome and early breastfeeding cessation. 

345 infants with colic were involved in the trials.