Tag Archives: colic

Do Probiotics Help Babies Stop Crying?

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Photo by Dina, Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by Dina, Flickr Creative Commons

Do probiotics help young babies stop crying? Well my answer has changed in the past two months and this is why.

This is the title of an article about a study published in the British Medical Journal yesterday: More Evidence That Probiotics Won’t Ease Baby’s Colic, and here is the title of an article from the Wall Street Journal that I shared two months ago: Probiotic Given to Newborns Appears to Help Prevent Colic.

My first reaction to this conflicting research was to cry like a newborn. Thankfully before doing that I thought about research and why it is important to sort through good research and bad research. There is a lot of analysis that goes into deciding whether a study is good or bad. Instead of giving a Stats 101 talk I will tell you this: research results can be flawed because of the study design, number of subjects in the study, conclusions drawn, and statistical significance of the findings. For example: If you have 8 guys on a golf course and 7 are wearing pants, 1 is wearing shorts, and the guy in shorts gets hit by lightning… there is NO conclusion to be drawn. Now the good thing about that scenario is you can now come up with a question that can be researched properly: Does wearing shorts on a golf course increase your risk of being hit by lightning?

I realize I may be getting off on a bit of a tangent. Research is tricky, and unless you have taken a course or two in statistics it is best to ask your physician or favorite statistician whether a study is drawing valid conclusions or not.

So what is my take on probiotics and crying babies? The study released in January was a small study, funded by a probiotic manufacturer. It left me feeling hopeful, but not convinced. The benefit of that study was that it led to a larger study, funded by a children’s hospital, and set up in a way (double blind, placebo controlled randomised trial) that was truly free of bias.

So the bottom line once again is: babies cry. Sometimes they cry because they are hungry, sometimes they are hurt, sometimes they need a diaper change, and sometimes they just need soothing. But sometimes babies cry because it is a normal developmental phase. If you are concerned it is always a good idea to call your pediatrician. I wouldn’t spend my money on gripe water, gas drops, probiotics, or homeopathic remedies. I would save it for a good bottle of wine. You may need a glass to get through the roughest of evenings!

For more tips for crying babies you can go to my previous posts: Crying, Teething Torture, Is Swaddling Risky? and Postpartum Depression.


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cryingMy firstborn, Mira, was the easiest baby… for the first two weeks. After that she cried, and cried, and cried. When our neighbors first met her their first comment wasn’t something along the lines of “oh how cute”. Instead they exclaimed: “It IS a baby. We thought you had a screeching cat!”

One summer night it was particularly warm. We live in coastal California so this is a rare occurrence and no one has A/C. It was so hot inside that instead of rocking her for hours indoors, we were stuck on the front porch with our screaming baby. Our neighbors slowly streamed out of their houses to ask us if everything was OK. Of course everything was not OK! The only thing my husband and I could do was pass her back and forth as our frustration and exhaustion limits peaked. I am thankful to report that she did eventually fall asleep (hours later).

Babies cry. Sometimes they cry a lot. There is even a campaign from the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome called the Period of Purple Crying to reassure parents that crying is normal and sometimes there is nothing you can do to stop it.  They do offer some great information and resources to get through the worst of it.

Your baby will get increasingly fussy by 3 or 4 weeks, and it may not improve until 3 to 4 months. During this period many infants will cry 5 or more hours per day! It is often worse in the afternoon and evenings (when parents are exhausted too). The term colic is sometimes used to describe prolonged periods of crying, but colic is not a diagnosis. This means that there is no test for colic, there is nothing wrong with your baby, and there is nothing to treat it. Gripe water, gas drops, supplements, and other folk remedies really don’t help because crying is a normal developmental stage. If your baby is not feeding well, always cries with feedings, seems sick, or has a fever then something else may be wrong (and you should call your baby’s doctor).

There are great techniques to soothe a crying baby. My favorite is from Dr. Harvey Karp who wrote The Happiest Baby on the Block. His technique involves swaddling your baby, putting her on her stomach or side (when awake and supervised), gently swinging her, shushing in her ear, and letting her suck on a pacifier, finger or breast. This method sometimes worked for my firstborn, and always worked for my second. Every baby is different and if you are unable to soothe your baby it is not because you are a bad parent or you have a bad baby.

You cannot spoil a baby, but you also will not hurt a baby by stepping away when he can’t be soothed or you are at your wits end. This is a very high-risk time for child abuse and shaken babies. Put him down gently in his crib and call a friend. Sometimes it is the mommies and the daddies who need TLC the most. Who knows…. he may just stop crying and fall asleep! Sometimes removing stimulation and letting a baby rest is the right answer…. and sometimes it isn’t. The good news: he will grow out of this phase.

Great resources:
Child Help is a 24/7 toll free number that you can call and talk to a professionally trained counselor and get help on dealing with your infant’s crying as well as other development topics that you may find frustrating. CHILD HELP HOTLINE: 1-800-4-a-child

Do you have any tips that kept you sane during your baby’s worst crying spells?