Newborns who take drops containing a beneficial bacterium cry less than babies not given the supplement, researchers report January 13 in JAMA Pediatrics.
The cause of excessive crying — or colic – is not well understood, but scientists suspect that the microbial mix in infants’ intestines is involved. Researchers at the University of Bari Aldo Moro in Italy teamed with other scientists across Italy to randomly assign 589 newborns to get either a placebo or a probiotic supplement. The supplement contained live Lactobacillus reuteri, a microbe shown previously to improve intestinal function. Parents delivered the drops and kept detailed diaries of infant health for three months.
Newborns getting the microbe were less apt to develop colic symptoms. They cried for an average of 38 minutes per day; infants getting placebo cried for 71 minutes. The microbe-treated babies also spit up less often. These improvements meant fewer doctor visits and trips to emergency departments for the infants. Parents whose babies got the microbes lost only about half a day of work during the study, compared with nearly three days for parents of infants getting a placebo.