Probiotic Drops Might Ease Colic: Study
But more research is needed to assess any other effects on newborns, experts say
Another expert agreed that more research is needed before doctors can embrace the results.
"There is going to be a day -- and it may be soon -- when your pediatrician will give five probiotics a day to prevent your baby from getting colic," said Dr. Bruno Chumpitazi, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
"But even though [this study is] encouraging, there is still a lot of work to be done," said Chumpitazi, the co-author of an accompanying journal editorial. "We don't know how the probiotic works, and we don't know the long-term effects of doing this."
Chumpitazi said colic and associated gastrointestinal problems usually clear up by themselves. However, there might be some long-term effects from colic, he said.
"Kids who have had colic seem to be at risk for abdominal pain with gas-like symptoms later in life," Chumpitazi said. So there might be a benefit to preventing colic, he said.
During the 90-day study, parents recorded the number of times their babies vomited or had a bowel movement or an episode of inconsolable crying (as well as its duration). Parents also reported how many times they saw their pediatrician.
Babies taking the probiotic had an average crying time of 38 minutes, compared with 71 minutes among the infants receiving the placebo, the researchers found.
In addition, kids on probiotics vomited about three times a day on average, while kids on placebo vomited almost five times a day. Those taking the probiotic had an average of about four bowel movements a day, compared with three and a half among those taking the placebo, the researchers found.
Moreover, probiotic use was associated with an average $119 savings for each baby, the researchers said.
Dr. William Muinos, co-director of the division of gastroenterology at Miami Children's Hospital in Florida, is cautious about using probiotics to prevent colic.
"We don't normally treat babies with probiotics," Muinos said. Some babies might be at risk for having the bacteria get into the bloodstream and causing serious illness, he said.
If parents want to give their baby a probiotic, it should be done under the supervision of their pediatrician, Muinos said. "[It should] not be used as a preventive tool, but as a treatment for colic, reflux or constipation," he said.