Probiotics Reduce Colic in Newborns

A new data analysis has revealed that probiotics have the potential to reduce colic in babies under three months old. If this proves to be the case, it will be a windfall for new mothers struggling with colicky babies. The research was published in the flagship journal of the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP), Pediatrics.

Interestingly, the findings show that the use of probiotics can reduce colic, but only for babies who are breastfed. This might be a disappointment for those who for one reason or another will not or can not breastfeed. But it can be added to the slew of reasons why breastfeeding is far superior to bottle feeding.

Breastfed babies are known to have better overall health, stronger immune systems, measurably higher intelligence, and observably better emotional stability over the course of their lives. These advantages add up to major lifelong advantages compared to babies who were fed formula via a bottle.

If all of this is not enough to convince a mother to breastfeed her baby, maybe the chance to eliminating colic will. Caring for an infant is extremely taxing. New parents get very little sleep, especially with demanding infants, and those suffering from colic pose additional challenges.

Statistical studies show that child abuse is more common in cases where a baby has colic. This shows, more than anything else, the extreme stress that a demanding infant places on the parents. This new development may offer a form of much-needed relief for mothers willing to breastfeed.

The research team accrued their data from a series of double-blind studies with a total sample population of 356 colicky infants. Of those, 174 received treatment with probiotics. 171 were given a placebo, and the remaining infants received neither a placebo or the probiotics.

The researchers found that of the babies who received the probiotics, there was a 50% greater chance of improving colic symptoms over the placebo group. The control group, which received no probiotics or placebo experienced no change.

Dr. Valerie Sung, the lead author of the study said, “The probiotic group averaged less cry-fuss time than placebo at all time points. The probiotic group was almost twice as likely as placebo to experience treatment success at all time points. Intervention effects were dramatic in breastfed infants, but insignificant in 21 formula-fed infants. One particular strain, Lactobacillus reuteri (L. reuteri) DSM 17938 has shown promise. Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 is effective and can be recommended for breastfed infants with colic. Its role in formula-fed infants with colic needs further research.”

She went on to say that the research will need to repeated by other teams. She also commented that it would need to be verified on a case by case basis before it would be put into full use.

These results are not terribly surprising. An important part of the role of breastfeeding is for the mother to impart her own immune function to the child as well as her own probiotics. These are things which are not fully developed in new babies. For this reason, it is common for babies to experience stomach pain from difficulty digesting their food.

The tummy ache explanation for colic is technically theoretical since babies cannot say that they are experiencing abdominal discomfort. We would be quite surprised if they did.

So it makes good sense that giving young babies probiotics would help them to digest their food more effectively and with greater comfortable- thereby reducing the incidence of inexplicable crying.

In recent years, probiotics have gained rapid acceptance as an important element in our digestion. The health of “gut flora” has been linked to longer life, better emotional stability, longer lasting mental function, and better overall health.

This type of research promises to pave the way to creating an early basis for better digestive health. Experts believe that early implementation of probiotic supplements will have a powerful positive effect on the health and well-being for people across their entire lives- reducing disease and improving nutrient uptake.

A similar study was completed in 2007, which this new study appears to corroborate. It used a much smaller sample of mothers and infants, but the results were largely the same.

As the results continue to come in, some pediatricians are already using this information to encourage more new mothers to breastfeed their babes. Breastfeeding has long been known to be one of the most valuable ways parents can promote their child’s well-being over the course of their entire lives.

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