Can Probiotics Console the Inconsolable?

The inconsolable crying of a colicky baby. How are parents supposed to cope? They try everything, but nothing helps.

Back in January, NPR reported some new research published by JAMA Pediatrics. Colicky babies in Europe were given a form of the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri with the idea that friendly bacteria could help them develop their digestive systems correctly. The results? Shorter crying times, fewer spitting up episodes, easier digestion, and less constipation. Even better, newborn infants had a better shot of avoiding colic altogether when given probiotics during the first three months of life. (Though the study was done in Europe, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that probiotics may help colicky babies over here as well!)

So what’s going on here? Dr. Robert Shulman, a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, says that probiotics may affect babies’ immune systems, improve the lining of the intestines, and influence the balance of bacteria living in the digestive system.

For those of us who know about the gut-brain connection, these findings may not be too much of a shocker. Certainly they wouldn’t have surprised Dr. Royal Lee! After all, previous research strongly suggests that our gut bacteria has a direct impact on how our brain regulates stress management, mood, and overall cognitive functioning. It takes no great leap of understanding to see how healthy bacteria may play other powerful roles in the human body—like, say, soothing a supremely disgruntled, uncomfortable baby.

Despite the tantalizing findings laid out by JAMA Pediatrics, Dr. Shulman and others also caution that more research is needed. But that’s not exactly what parents of colicky babies want to hear. Where should these sleep-deprived moms and dads start? There are already many probiotics marketed for colic that are sold drug stores and supermarkets. But there’s also Lactic Acid Yeast Wafers from Standard Process. These wafers contain a natural source of lactic acid to help maintain a healthy intestinal environment—one that simultaneously promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria and staves off gastrointestinal imbalances.

Of course, babies will always cry, and parents will always lose sleep. But perhaps one day the particular, inconsolable wail of the colicky baby will become a thing of the past—and parents can go lose sleep over something else. Maybe even something fun!

Photo from iStock/monkeybusinessimages

Heather Wilkinson

Heather Wilkinson is Senior Editor at Selene River Press.

Related Topics

childhood nutrition | postnatal nutrition