Probiotics 'no good' at treating infant colic

17 May 2016


“Probiotics 'don't ease' baby colic,” the Mail Online reports. A small, though well-conducted, study suggests that probiotics – commonly touted as “friendly bacteria” – could actually make symptoms worse.

Colic is a poorly understood condition in which otherwise healthy babies cry excessively and frequently. While not a serious threat to a baby’s health, colic can be extremely distressing for parents – especially those of the sleep deprived variety (is there any other kind?).

The study included 167 young babies with colic and looked at whether giving them daily drops of the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri (L. reuteri) improved symptoms, in comparison to giving them inactive placebo drops. The researchers found the treatment did not help.

In fact, after a month of treatment, formula-fed babies in the probiotic group actually cried or fussed for almost an hour longer than those in the placebo group. The treatment did not have any side effects.

This may be bad news for parents struggling to comfort their crying baby. The good news, however, is that all babies grow out of colic within a few months.

The mystery of colic

Despite being one of the most common infant conditions, affecting around 1 in 5 babies, colic remains poorly understood.

Suggested factors that may contribute towards the condition include indigestion, a temporary sensitivity to environmental factors such as heat or light, or hormonal changes in the baby’s developing body.

What is known is that colic isn’t linked to faults on the parents’ part.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from the Royal Children’s Hospital, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and the University of Melbourne (all in Australia), and the Child and Family Research Institute (Canada). It was funded by the Georgina Menzies Maconachie Charitable Trust.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed British Medical Journal on an open-access basis, meaning the study is free to read online.

The Mail Online’s coverage of the study was accurate.


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