Health

Probiotics 'soothe some babies with colic'

Baby crying
Image caption Colic does not harm babies, but can be distressing

Probiotic drops soothe some babies suffering from colic, studies show.

Six of 12 trials, involving nearly 2,000 babies, found it reduced crying.

The Australian team who analysed the findings told the JAMA Pediatrics journal probiotics may be worth a try, particularly for breastfed babies, but larger trials were needed.

There is no probiotic treatment parents can buy off the shelf. And aside from winding after a feed, there is little on offer that is proven to help.

Colic affects as many as one in five babies.

It is thought to be related to taking in too much air while feeding.

Babies grow out of it by about four to six months, but until then colic can be distressing for all involved.

Probiotics are a cocktail of live micro-organisms that, once consumed, are thought to offer certain health benefits.

The 12 studies identified by Dr Valerie Sung, from the University of Melbourne, and colleagues investigated the effectiveness of probiotics given either to breastfeeding mothers or breast or bottle-fed babies.

Some of the studies looked at probiotics as a treatment of colic and others for preventing colic.

Three of the five "treatment" trials found probiotics helped breastfed babies, one found possible effectiveness in formula-fed babies, and one found no effect in breastfed babies.

Dr Sung said: "Even though the use of a specific strain of probiotic (L reuteri) in breastfed term infants with colic is promising, there is still insufficient evidence to support the general use of probiotics in all infants with colic or to recommend its use in preventing colic."

She added more trials were under way.

Janet Fyle, of the Royal College of Midwives said: "Colic is not life-threatening or harmful to the baby, but it is distressing for them and their parents.

"We do not know what causes colic and not all crying is down to colic. The baby may be crying because they are cold or have a dirty nappy.

"All babies are different.

"Your midwife can suggest practical things that may help, such as sticking to a pattern of feeding and holding your baby and walking around to comfort it."

Rosemary Dodds of the National Childbirth Trust said: "There is currently no concrete cure for baby colic, but there are ways to soothe your baby that can help greatly.

"For babies who are breastfed, ensuring they are well positioned at the breast, and finish the milk in the first breast before moving to the second can help.

"Babies who are bottle-fed can be 'winded' after a feed to help them bring up any air they take in with the milk; an upright position and gentle pressure on the stomach or patting on the back is helpful."

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