Colic affects 10% to 40% of infants worldwide, and is associated with significant parental guilt, frustration and postpartum depression. There is no question that a baby’s cry can cause high levels of discomfort and stress to the caregivers. Colic is characterized by episodes of uncontrollable crying or fussing in an otherwise healthy and well-fed infant less than three months of age. These episodes usually last more than three hours a day and more than three days per week for at least three weeks.
Think of the magic number three when trying to determine if your baby has colic. Unfortunately, the cause of infantile colic is unknown. Colic is a diagnosis of exclusion which means no cause has been found after performing a detailed history and physical examination. Proposed causes include intolerance to lactose (cow’s milk), poor feeding technique, maternal smoking or nicotine replacement therapy, gastrointestinal immaturity or inflammation, and alterations in the microflora.
Treatment for colic is multitude. Supportive counseling, parental reassurance, reducing maternal dietary allergen intake, and dietary modifications, including taking probiotics, are the cornerstones of treatments. Parental support by the family physician is always included no matter what modality the mother pursues. The natural progression of colic resolves with time, so parents may just require reassurance that the infant is still healthy. Some other techniques health care practitioners may suggest is to provide the baby with a pacifier, swaddle the baby, feed in an inclined position and burp the baby often.
In regards to dietary modifications, randomized controlled studies showed a low allergen diet for mothers improved colic symptoms among breastfed infants. For instance, mothers in one trial excluded cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, and fish from their diet and their baby reported less crying (137 minutes less per day compared with 51 minutes in the control group). If mothers do not want to consider an allergen restricted diet, they also have the option to give probiotics to their infant.
Probiotics for Babies with Colic
Probiotics are living microorganisms that, when givens in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit. Probiotics contain a combination of good bacteria and yeast to help keep your body healthy. In your microbiome, or gut, there is a delicate balance of good bacteria and bad bacteria. Sometimes, when we get sick, our bad bacteria can overpower our good bacteria. Probiotics may assist your baby’s body by providing good bacteria and stabilizing the microbiome into its natural state. To choose the top rated probiotic supplement for your baby, you should consider the dosage form, quality, and specific strain.
Probiotics for children typically come in two forms —liquid and powder. Liquid drops are usually easier to use as it can be given directly into the mouth, while powdered probiotics can be sprinkled onto the tongue, nipple or pacifier.
Unfortunately, not all probiotics are made equally. To find the best natural probiotic supplements, you should research manufactures that have clinically studied ingredients and are GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) and FDA (Food and Drug Administration) registered facilities. Good manufactures should also provide transparency in their labeling. The Supplement Facts on the probiotic label should include the specific genus, species, and strain as well as the quantity in colony-forming units (CFUs). For instance, a product’s packaging may state Saccharomyces boulardii I-745: 1 Billion CFU.
The packaging should also list all the ingredients in the formulation in case your child has any dietary restrictions. Try and avoid probiotics made from palm or filler oils. Following these simple practices can help you choose the right product for your child!
The probiotics best used for colic include Lactobacillus reuteri and Bifidobacterium bifidum. Lactobacillus reuteri is a treatment option for breastfed infants. Giving Lactobacillus reuteri five drops per day significantly decreased colic in breastfed infants, averaging about 60 minutes of less crying per day at three weeks. Bifidobacterium bifidum is also a treatment option for breastfed infants. A controlled clinical trial randomized eighty infants and measured the rate of crying reduction.
At the end of the second week, infants who received Bifidobacterium bifidum had a higher rate of reduction in daily crying as well as a reduced number of crying episodes. Thus, supplementation of Lactobacillus reuteri and Bifidobacterium bifidum for your infant are adequate options to discuss with your health care provider.
With this information, we hope to put your mind at ease about colic and its treatment options. Remember to consult with your pediatric healthcare provider before starting any new therapies.
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- Nocerino, Rita et al. “The therapeutic efficacy of Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis BB-12® in infant colic: A randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled trial.” Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics vol. 51,1 (2020): 110-120. doi:10.1111/apt.15561