Probiotics May Help Colic in Breastfed But Not Formula Fed Babies Interview with:

Dr Valerie Sung MBBS (Hons) FRACP MPH PhD Department of Paediatrics The University of Melbourne Murdoch Childrens Research Institute Parkville, Australia

Dr. Sung

Dr Valerie Sung MBBS (Hons) FRACP MPH PhD
Department of Paediatrics
The University of Melbourne
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Parkville, Australia What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Infant colic is excessive crying in babies less than 3 months old with no underlying medical cause. It affects 1 in 5 newborns, is very distressing, and is associated with maternal depression, Shaken Baby Syndrome, and early cessation of breastfeeding. Up to now, there has been no single effective treatment for colic. The probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 has recently shown promise but results from trials have been conflicting. In particular, a previous trial from Australia, the largest in the world so far, did not find the probiotic to be effective in both breastfed and formula-fed infants with colic.

This international collaborative study, which collected raw data from 345 infants from existing trials from Italy, Poland, Canada and Australia, confirms Lactobacillus reuteri to be effective in breastfed infants with colic. However, it cannot be recommended for formula-fed infants with colic.

Compared to a placebo, the probiotic group was two times more likely to reduce crying by 50 per cent, by the 21st day of treatment, for the babies who were exclusively breastfed. The number needed to treat for day 21 success in breastfed infants was 2.6.

In contrast, the formula fed infants in the probiotic group seemed to do worse than the placebo group, but the numbers for this group were limited. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Parents should know that the probiotic is not an automatic cure, that it may be helpful for some breastfed infants with colic, but not for those who are formula fed. Parents who are worried about their baby’s crying should seek help from their doctor to rule out any underlying medical cause, and get as much support as possible from family and friends. Babies who are breastfed may be given this probiotic for 3 weeks rather than a medication or over-the-counter product that does not work.

It should also be noted that Lactobacillus reuteri is the only strain of probiotic that has been shown to be effective for breastfed infants with colic. Although it is safe to use in the short term, there is still limited information about its long-term effects. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: More research is needed to look into the probiotic’s effectiveness in formula fed infants with colic. Studies should also examine how the probiotic affects the gut flora and how this may contribute to the possible differences in effects between breastfed and formula-fed infants, as well as possible differences in effects between infants born in different countries. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: The study was supported by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Lactobacillus reuteri to Treat Infant Colic: A Meta-analysis

Valerie SungFrank D’AmicoMichael D. CabanaKim ChauGideon KorenFrancesco SavinoHania SzajewskaGirish DeshpandeChristophe DupontFlavia IndrioSilja MentulaAnna ParttyDaniel Tancredi

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.


[wysija_form id=”1″]






Last Updated on January 5, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD