Are Probiotics A Cure For Your Baby’s Colic?

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Can Probiotics Cure Colic?One of our priorities here at The Baby Sleep Site® (aside from doing everything we can to help your baby sleep!) is to stay on top of current sleep-related research and best practice recommendations. Nicole and our team of sleep consultants really are sleep experts, but there’s a reason for that – they keep up with what’s happening in the field of sleep research!

Well, last week, one of our consultants forwarded a new and interesting article on to the rest of us. This article, from NPR’s health blog, poses the question, “Can probiotics help soothe colicky babies?”

Given that colic can lead to lots of nighttime waking, we were all ears! So what’s the scoop? Can probiotics help colicky babies? Or is this just another ‘cure’ that’s not actually a cure, like melatonin supplements?

Let’s take a look!

What Are Probiotics, And How Do They Help Newborns And Young Babies?

Simply put, probiotics (also known as ‘lactobacillus‘) are good bacteria. This is the type of bacteria found in the human digestive system – it’s the bacteria that helps us digest our food properly, and that prevents things like diarrhea and constipation.

What does this have to do with newborns and young babies? Well, as it turns out, many people (from parents to doctors and medical researchers) believe that colic symptoms are due largely to baby tummy troubles, like gas and bloating for example. The theory is that colicky babies in particular struggle with stomach problems, and that’s where the long bouts of inconsolable crying come from.

It follows, then, that giving newborns and young babies a dose of probiotics would help ease their tummy troubles, and would thereby reduce (or maybe even eliminate) their colicky symptoms.

This seems logical – but is it true? Does it actually work?

Are Probiotics A Cure For Colic?

Here’s the short answer – maybe.

Here’s the longer explanation. According to the NPR blog article, several studies (mostly done in Europe) have shown a link between probiotics and reduced colic symptoms. So it does seem that there’s some connection between the two. Even more interesting, though, is a recent study published by the JAMA Pediatrics, which indicates that probiotics may actually be useful in preventing colic.

Yes, you read that right — it might be possible to actually prevent colic. To put it lightly – wow!!

How does it work? Well, the theory is that offering probiotics actually helps a baby’s digestive system develop properly, which can in turn prevent chronic tummy issues, like gas and indigestion. Prevent those, and you can possibly prevent colic. From the article:

“There are a number of effects that we know probiotics can have,” says Dr. Robert Shulman, a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. For example, probiotics may affect the immune system, improve the lining of the intestine and influence the balance of bacteria living in the digestive system, Shulman says.

But don’t rush out and buy every probiotic on the shelf just yet — this research is still very much in its infancy (no pun intended!), and Shulman cautions that much more research needs to be done before any broad, sweeping recommendations can be made. This means that, if you have a colicky baby at home, you will need to discuss any probiotic supplements with your baby’s healthcare provider first, before offering them.

Tips From The Baby Sleep Site® Sleep Consultants

This is all interesting stuff (especially to those of us who are Baby Sleep Site employees, and who are therefore obsessed with sleep!) But does it really work? And how can you put this information to work at home?

I asked our sleep consultants to share their own personal experiences with colic remedies, to see if probiotics proved useful for them. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Shaye’s daughter had colic, but the probiotics that Shaye gave her didn’t help much. As it turns out, Shaye’s little one didn’t have simple colic and actually needed medication to control her symptoms.
  • Miriam tried probiotics with one of her babies, but didn’t like them, and didn’t think they were effective. She says Colic Calm™ was a better solution for her family.
  • Sarah (one of our newest sleep consultants – check out her bio!) found probiotics extremely helpful in controlling her daughter’s colic. She had a pediatrician recommend them early on, and as she puts it, “I haven’t looked back!”

Of course, there’s no telling exactly what will work best for your colicky baby – you won’t know until you try various remedies. Just be sure not to offer any probiotics to your baby or toddler without first speaking to your healthcare provider.

Okay, parents – share your tips! How did you cope / are you coping with a colicky baby? Share your wisdom with us!

  • Need more sleep training resources? We have a ton! Browse our list of e-books and e-book packages, designed to help your baby or toddler better sleeping and napping habits. We even have a book that’s designed just for newborns, and focuses on gentle methods to shift sleep! These are perfect solutions for parents who want to sleep train on their own, but need more information.
  • Want 5 free e-Books, plus a weekly chat with a consultant? Join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and teleseminars. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! And as a member, you have access to a once-a-week chat with one of our expert sleep consultants – ideal for those times when you need some expert advice!.
  • Need Personalized Help? For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.
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Comments

  1. sarah says

    My son had severe reflux and probiotics were recommended. I would suggest making sure that whatever you use does not contain dairy products. Many probiotics are grown out on or with dairy and that caused a problem for us. Allergen-free probiotics are great though!

  2. Crystal Nixon says

    We tried probiotics for my colicky baby. The studies have used a particular strain of probiotic, Lactobacillus reuteri. We bought Gerber Soothe colic drops, which you can add to formula or put on the breast before breastfeeding. It wasn’t a cure-all for sure, but I think the probiotics did help somewhat. We tried almost everything for her colic. Dr. Karp’s 5 S’s helped somewhat, especially swaddling. The colic drops helped somewhat. Honestly (to my great frustration), the only thing that worked for sure was time. She finally starting getting better at 5 months. She is almost 6 months now & is much less fussy, though she still has bad days. She is not a great sleeper, but her naps are finally getting a little bit longer. From what I’ve read in “Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child”, it takes longer for post-colic babies to learn how to self-soothe & to sleep better. I would like to offer the parents of every colicky baby a huge “virtual hug”. I know what you’re going through & it’s really rough.

  3. Amber Phillips says

    Probiotics helped one of our twins tremendously! She had colic and we tried everything to calm her down, gripe water included. Nothing seemed to help until we tried Bio Gaia and it was a life saver! I would have gladly paid 5 times its value. Of course it’s not an immediate fix, it cut her crying time in 1/2 the first time we used it and it only got better after that. Eventually we lessened the dose until we gave her no more and there was no more colic!

  4. Gizelle says

    Probiotics helped my little one with colic but it wasn’t a cure. The biggest factor for us (because I was breastfeeding) was to sort out my stomach. I have had stomach problems for years, which I have had to manage with diet changes and help from a Chinese traditional medicine practitioner (Western medicine was sadly lacking when it came to help and results). My Chinese doctor explained that if our stomachs can’t process food properly the nutrient particles in our milk are not well enough processed in our milk for babies tiny, less developed tummies. In addition to some of the typical problem foods I had already cut or of my diet to try to end the colic (dairy, soy, chocolate etc), the Chinese doctor prescribed a herbal tea and probiotics to sort out MY digestion and vuola, colic symptoms in my baby were soon gone. Might be worthwhile having a personal consult with a herbal medicine practitioner, naturopath or traditional Chinese medicine practitioner.

  5. Sa says

    Cure colic…I dont know. But probiotics have helped my twin twelve week olds have regular bowl movements and less guess…which, yes results in less discomfort and crying. We started with the gerber drops but thy are very pricey. We now do 1/4 tsp daily of a powder! Highly recommend.

  6. Lisa says

    Our little bub was born tiny, had reflux, weight gain issues and to top it all off she had colic. We went through 2 months of hell with practically no sleep for any of us until we went to see a peadiatrician because little miss had gotten bronciolitis and needed to be hospitalised. After all that was sorted we told the peadiatrician all of her symptoms and we got her on omeprazole for the reflux which was an absolute God send! After weeks of still struggling with the colic, going through gripe water, infants friend and infacol he suggested probiotics, specifically lactobacillus reuteri. We crushed 1/2 a tablet (100million organisms) and gave it to her once a day mixed with breast milk in a syringe. We did this for a month and it wa the best thing we ever did!!!

  7. Julaine says

    I have taken probiotics myself for years. After gas and thrush issues with my first born son I started giving him probiotics daily. First with a brand called bio Gaia then to hmf natogen. my second child is 8 wks old and i started her immediately on probiotics. I highly recommend probiotics to prevent illness,help with ezema,diaper rash, sinus rinses, etc. I’m a big fan but when purchasing probiotics make sure it’s a good quality brand and 1 that should be refrigerated.

  8. Sara says

    Both my boys suffered from severe silent reflux and my second also has multiple food intolerances which I’m sure we’re the reason behind his terrible colic. Going through this journey with them both, and after a lot of research which led us to a biomedical pead I strongly believe probiotics contributed to their gradual improvement (and aided healing) along with the right medication and avoiding intolerant foods.

  9. Emily DeJeu says

    @ sarah — oh, good tip on the dairy! I didn’t know that. Thanks for pointing it out! :)

    @ Crystal Nixon — so glad your little one is finally showing some improvement! That must’ve been a looooooong six months, though. Thanks, too, for the virtual hug – people like you make our Baby Sleep Site community wonderful! :)

    @ Amber Philips — awesome! So glad you had success using this product! And thanks for this tip; it’ll no doubt be a lifesaver to other moms suffering through colic. ;)

    @ Gizelle – how interesting! Glad to hear you were able to take care of both your own tummy troubles AND your baby’s. And good for you for being open to non-Western medicine; it’s good to remember that we have things to learn from other cultures, including alternative medicine.

    @ Sa — so glad to hear you found the solution! Such a relief for your whole family, I’ll bet. :)

    @ Lisa — wow! Sounds like probiotics have been THE cure for your little one! That’s awesome. :)

    @ Julaine — ooooh, interesting! Is the refrigeration a good sign because it indicates that the cultures are live? Thanks for sharing this insight! :)

  10. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Sara – so glad you mention the ‘gradual’ part. Based on the comments I’m reading, it really does sound like for some, probiotics were a pretty quick cure, while for others, they led to gradual improvement. That’s a good reminder.

    Glad you were able to sort out your babies’ reflux and food intolerances! That’s no small task! :)

  11. Julaine says

    Emily-yes refrigeration indicates live organisms as well as ensure the amt of live bacteria specified on the bottle is accurate. Also some bacteria that are not refrigerated become more harmful than good. Hence the fact a good name

  12. Melinda says

    My son had colic and issues with bowel movements when he was about 7 weeks. We took him to a chiropractor since we heard that adjustments can help with colic. The chiropractor recommended a powder probiotic and it did gradually help with the colic and helped get his bowels fixed as well. We continued seeing the chiropractor every couple of weeks too. I honestly believe the combination of the probiotic and the adjustments were the fix for us. My son loved seeing the chiropractor and he always took a long nap after the appointment because he felt so much better. If we have another baby, I will start probiotics and seeing the chiropractor early. Also, just consider, there have been some articles stating the importance of probiotics to help keep your immune system healthy.

  13. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Julaine – thanks for this info! I didn’t know this, so you’ve taught me something. :)

    @ Melinda — really interesting! I’ve heard from friends about the benefits of chiro for babies, but I never tried it with any of mine. I can speak volumes about the benefits of chiro for adults, though — I see my chiropractor every month! :)

    So glad you were able to find a good solution for your little guy – hope you’re all sleeping soundly now!