Can probiotics soothe colicky babies?

A recent study reported in the New York Times found that colicky babies had gastrointestinal inflammation in the gut and traces of a bacterium that would have promoted it.  Babies without colic had no inflammation and a greater diversity of beneficial bacteria.

About 20 percent of all babies suffer from colic, and it can stem from several different causes – hormones in milk, allergies, even stress in the womb.  But scientists are now zeroing in on relief.  A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health in 2009, found a direct correlation between the symptoms of colic and fewer strains of microflora in their intestines.

Likewise, a 2007 study by Italian researchers examined 83 colicky, breast-fed babies.  Over a 28-day period, some infants were given simethicone to reduce gas, while the others were given a supplement containing L. reuteri, a beneficial bacteria often found in yogurt.  At the end of the study, the babies who got the probiotic cried an average of only 51 minutes a day, compared with 2 ½ hours for the other babies in the group.

What should you look for in a probiotic for fussy infants?

Ideally, it should contain four billion active cultures per gram, and be a healthy mix of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus.  It should also contain five viable strains of beneficial bacteria, including essential B. infantis.  Finally, it should be able to mix easily with formula, juice, milk or other liquids, and have a pleasant taste.

Studies: Probiotics Benefit Preemies, DHA Benefits Moms

Two new reports from the National Institutes of Health tout the benefits of natural supplementation for both premature infants and their moms. In a study involving more than 100 babies who were born “extremely prematurely” (weighing 2 pounds, 2 ounces or less) researchers found that administering a probiotic supplement once daily until they reached 34 weeks actually helped the babies gain weight.

While nearly half of the infants received a combination of beneficial Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bifidobacterium infantis, the remaining participants did not receive any probiotics. The difference in weight gain, researchers believe, has to do with the ability of probiotics to help the body more effectively absorb needed nutrients from the diet. Providing an infant-friendly probiotic supplement during the early years also helps to promote healthy digestive and immune function later in life.

Another study found that mothers of premature infants can promote healthy brain development in their babies by taking a natural DHA supplement. An Omega-3 fatty acid found primarily in fish oil, DHA has been shown to promote healthy brain and nervous system function as well as eye health, and breast-feeding moms taking supplemental DHA had more than 10 times the amount of DHA in their breast milk than those who were not taking a supplement. Study author Dr. Isabelle Marc stressed the importance of dietary supplementation in order for moms to obtain sufficient levels of DHA for the “optimal growth and development” of their babies.