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As any parent who’s had a colicky baby can tell you, those first few months of Baby’s life can feel like an eternity. Colic usually disappears on its own before an infant is five months old, but from about six weeks to four months, colicky babies may have episodes of persistent, unexplained crying, fussiness, or irritability lasting for three or more hours per day, at least three times per week for three or more weeks.
Desperate parents and well-meaning doctors have tried everything from eliminating “offending” foods from the nursing mother’s diet, to massage and herbal remedies, none of which have a proven track record for alleviating colic.
No one knows for sure what causes colic but possible explanations include food allergies, lactose intolerance, reflux, gas, immature digestive function, and altered gut flora (the bacteria that live in the intestines).
Recent studies suggest that colicky babies who are exclusively breast-fed may benefit from taking the probiotic, L. reuteri. To see how L. reuteri works in babies who are mostly or exclusively breast-fed, Polish researchers gave 80 colicky infants under five months old a supplement containing 100 million colony-forming units of L. reuteri or placebo for 21 days.
Parents recorded the frequency of the babies’ crying as well as their perception of crying severity, the effect on the family’s quality of life, and persistence of colic after the study ended.
No side effects were noted during the study.
“Having a child with colic isn’t easy, not just in the patience that it takes, but the helplessness you feel when you know your baby is in pain,” says Julia Duhaime of New Hampshire. “I wish I had had the resources when my baby was little that I have now (including the knowledge that probiotics might help!). At the time, all we could do was let her outgrow it.”
(J Pediatr 2012; doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2012.08.004)