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Can the use of probiotics help soothe colic?

Infant colic is a condition that affects up to 40 % of all babies in the first3 – 5 months of life and is defined as an otherwise healthy baby that has unexplained episodes of fussing and crying for at least 3 hours per day for 3 days per week.

Otherwise healthy would refer to a baby that is gaining sufficient weight, feeding correctly and has no other signs of fever, pain or discomfort.

These episodes of crying and fussing are usually predicable and happen at the same or similar times every day, starting at round 2 weeks after birth. While colic is generally self-limiting, meaning that it will spontaneously end after 3 – 5 months of life, it can be very distressing for both the parents and the baby. This is often referred to in many households as “witching hour” – the time that parents dread the most every day.

Baby is often inconsolable during these episodes, but will settle immediately after and will show no further signs of discomfort once the episode has passed.

There is also early clinical evidence to show that infant colic may lead to gastrointestinal disorders such as constipation and IBS later in life.

The cause of colic remains uncertain. There are probably multiple contributing factors. In recent years the role of GUT flora has come into focus and clinical trials agree that colicky infants tend to have lower counts of lactobacilli bacteria in their GUT than non-colicky ones.

There are a variety of factors that contribute to the GUT flora make-up of a baby, such as method of birth, method of feeding, environmental microbiota and the make-up of the mother’s microbiota….even the geographical area of birth can contribute to a unique GUT flora.

There is no widely accepted treatment for colic and many alternative therapies are used to assist in calming colic, such as warm baths, chiropractic treatment, tummy massage and a restrictive diet for breast-feeding mothers.

Recently trials have shown that probiotics containing lactobacillus reuteri strain DSM 17938 and certain preparations containing Fennel oil may be effective in the treatment of colic.

Lactobacillus reuteri strain DSM 17938 has been shown to reduce the crying time in colicky infants by up to 50 % within 7 days of first administration.

There is further evidence to show that treatment within the first 7 days after birth may reduce the possibility of developing colic, constipation and regurgitation, but this field requires further studies and trials.

Tips to parents with colicky babies Consult a healthcare professional to confirm a diagnosis of colic if your baby is experiencing any of these
symptoms. Remember, this will pass, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. Crying time is often increased when a baby senses distress in his/her parents, so try and take turns in calming and soothing baby during episodes of colic. Accept help – even if it is just a warm cup of tea and a hug Consult your healthcare professional if you are feeling overwhelmed or distressed