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Health Team

Probiotics could help soothe colicky babies

Posted August 23, 2010 4:30 p.m. EDT
Updated August 23, 2010 7:01 p.m. EDT

By day, 4-month-old Everly Weinholtz is a normal baby – crying only when she's hungry or tired – but at night, colic turns her into another child, her mother says.

"She screams. She yells. She turns beet red. She clenches her fist like she's fighting someone," Ali Weinholtz describes.

Now, there could be some help for mothers like Weinholtz to soothe their infants.

A study in the Journal of Pediatrics found that infants who took a daily drop of probiotic supplement cried one-third less than babies who didn't.

Probiotics, which can be found in yogurt and some yeast products, are healthy bacteria that help keep the intestines working properly.

"If there are less spasms and the muscles don't contract so strong, the baby won't feel pain," says Dr. Joseph Levy, a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at New York University's Langone Medical Center.

Colic, which babies usually outgrow by 6 months old, affects up to 28 percent of infants, but doctors aren't sure what causes it.

When diagnosing the condition, doctors refer to the Rule of Three's – crying for more than three hours, at least three days a week, for at least three weeks.

Probiotic products for babies are already on the market but more studies are needed before probiotics can be used to treat colic.

Levy says parents should check with their pediatrician before adding any to their child's diet.

"Not every probiotic is the same, and not every baby that cries has colic," he says.