Colic and the Probiotic: How parents might be able to reduce the symptoms of colic with a probiotic.

Colic…oh, colic. I’ve experienced it and my heart goes out to all of the parents and babies going through it. Colic is incredibly common in babies and often results in lots of crying, seemingly associated with abdominal discomfort. Colic affects one in five infants, so rest assured lots of parents are powering through sleepless nights and fussy babies.

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So what does it mean to have a “colicky” baby? Colic is most commonly defined by the “Rule of 3s”:

  • Crying and/or fussing more than three hours per day

  • More than or at least three days per week

  • Lasting longer than three weeks in an otherwise healthy baby

It is not abnormal for me to get calls from parents asking if their baby has colic and what they can do. The first thing is to get a complete physical exam by a doctor, especially if your child is inconsolable. There are a few conditions that can cause extreme pain and irritability that your pediatrician would want to rule out. Beyond that, my next recommendation is to start a probiotic for fussiness and colic. Though there is conflicting data on the effectiveness of a probiotic, a recent meta-analysis (which is a review of all the studies pertaining to a specific topic) reported that introducing probiotics had a positive impact on colicky babies, specifically in those that are breastfed.

The meta-analysis reported, “The positive effect was seen more dramatically in the breastfed infants and was not seen at all in the formula-fed infants. For infants with colic who were breastfed, the probiotic group’s reduction in crying and/or fussing duration from baseline was 46 minutes per day more than the placebo group.”

FORTY-SIX MINUTES of crying reduction? Um, yes, please! Any parent of a colicky baby knows that is a huge win!

Simply put, the breastfed babies with colic who received the probiotic cried less than the formula-fed babies who received the probiotic and less than the control group who did not receive a probiotic. However, parents of formula-fed infants should not lose hope. The study was not able to make a definitive conclusion on the effectiveness of a probiotic on formula-fed infants simply because the sample group was not large enough.

Want to know the best part? There were no adverse effects reported in any of the studies. So even if the probiotics don’t reduce your child’s colic, there is no harm in trying it out!

Some probiotics I recommend to my patients include Gerber Soothe, BioGaia Protectis and Zarbee’s Priobiotic. Of course, consult your child’s pediatrician before adding a probiotic to their diet. One tip I also give to parents of fussy babies is to try and apply Five S’s rule which includes swaddle, side/stomach position, sush, swing/sway, and suck.

And just remember, this too shall pass. Children do grow out of colic, I promise. Listening to constant crying is so hard and exhausting, but remember you can and should ask for help when you are exhausted. Or if there’s no one to help, a baby crying in his own crib is the same as a baby crying in your arms. It is OKAY to put your child down, and is definitely a better alternative to accidentally shaking a baby out of frustration.

Can you tell I’ve done my own personal research on this topic?! Here’s to less crying and more restful nights ahead…hang in there mamas and daddies!