In this blog post, we will explore the correlation between probiotics and infantile colic.
We will talk about what is colic, why it happens, how probiotics might be able to help in some cases, and if there are any risks. Colicky babies can have a hard time sleeping at night because of crying for hours on end that often starts during their evening feeding.
In addition to being frustrating for parents who need uninterrupted sleep themselves, this also makes it difficult for babies to grow normally.
These digestive issues can progress into an intestinal infection or even food allergies later in life when they start eating solid foods.
It’s important that parents know the basics about these common problems so they can better understand what their baby is going through and find relief.
What is infantile colic?
Colicky babies are often termed as having ‘pain in the belly’.
This term also includes babies that have digestive issues like acid reflux or loss of bowel control. Although colic can include any of these symptoms, it only happens during the evening time (usually between 6 PM and midnight).
When a newborn is hungry, it will cry as a way to tell its parents that it needs to be fed. In those with colic, this crying can be for hours at a time and not stop until they fall asleep.
During this time, the baby could be turning red from screaming and/or pulling up their legs toward their belly. The baby will typically be otherwise healthy and happy during the day.
How to know if your baby has colic
This type of crying can happen to all babies, but those with colic only do it every few days or weeks. It usually starts at about two weeks old and peaks at six weeks.
Babies that continuously cry for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week, for more than three weeks are usually diagnosed with colic.
This type of crying is not caused by pain or illness, so the baby will always be otherwise healthy and happy.
The baby’s digestive system is just growing very rapidly, leading to gas or other issues that need to get worked out.
While it can be frightening if your baby starts crying for no apparent reason, it is comforting to know that it will typically get better on its own between 3-4 months old.
Signs of infantile colic in infants
Some people might notice certain patterns in their baby’s cries. For example, one baby might cry every time they are laid down flat on their back, while another might only cry when laying or sitting up instead of laying down.
Some babies might cry for a few days and then be fine for several more, while others will start crying again after a short break.
If your baby is not fed or changed in about 3-4 hours during their colic time, they might have an issue that needs more attention than just some probiotics to help the digestive system.
Baby’s crying can also be caused by other things, so it is important to always check with your pediatrician before giving any medication.
How do probiotics help in colic?
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live inside the digestive system and aid in digestion. You might have an easier time digesting dairy products or certain foods because of the probiotics that we all have inside us.
Babies might need more of these helpful bacteria than adults because they are still gaining how to properly digest food and absorb nutrients at a quick rate.
Newborns only get about half of their digestive enzymes from their body, so adding in some probiotics will help them break down food better and learn how to properly use the enzymes they are making on their own.
We can’t give babies yogurt like we might enjoy, since this usually contains bacteria that adults can handle but babies cannot (and also milk that they might be allergic to).
Instead, look for probiotics that are specially made for children and follow the dosage guidelines given by your pediatrician.
Can probiotics make colic worse?
Many parents might be surprised to see that their baby’s colic gets worse when taking probiotics, but this is usually due to what type they are using.
Some supplements only contain one strain of bacteria while others have multiple different types inside them.
Since babies’ digestive systems are still developing, it’s important to stick with a supplement that has at least three different types of bacteria strains in them.
These bacteria live inside the baby’s intestines and colon, so they will need to be taken over a few weeks time for the best results.
Once the colic starts getting better, you can start weaning off of probiotics and then stop it all together once the colic is gone.
How long does it take for probiotics to work?
A baby’s digestive system is still developing over the first few months of eating, so it might not be able to handle certain formulas or solid food.
Swapping out their formula and/or changing what you feed them slowly will help prevent any upset stomachs or diarrhea from happening due to the new food.
Once you notice that your baby’s colic gets better, it usually takes about three weeks for them to get completely over their colic stage (and then another month or so before they will stop having issues with gas and extra helpings of probiotics).
Try giving your baby a few different types of formulas and solid foods to see what they can handle and how much.
While your baby might start eating a few teaspoons of cereal at a time, try increasing the portions as their stomach gets used to digesting it easier.
Some babies will do well on dairy formulas while others cannot have anything with lactose in it, so be sure to talk to your pediatrician about what types of formulas your baby can have.
Be sure to always follow the dosage guidelines that your doctor gives you and never give more than is recommended.
Some babies might need a higher dosage of probiotics if they are still struggling with getting over their colic stage, but this should only last for a couple of weeks or so since it is not good to give too much of them to your baby.
Vitamin K and colic
Babies that are born via c-section might not be able to get the proper amount of beneficial bacteria in them since they did not pass through their mother’s birth canal.
This can make it harder for their digestive system to absorb everything correctly, so keep an eye out for any signs of colic and gas when you first start giving them probiotics.
Most newborns in the USA are given a Vitamin K shot right after they are born, but this can also harm your baby’s future gut health.
The high levels of Vitamin K that are found in these shots might kill off some of the bacteria in their intestines which can cause long-term damage to their digestive system.
Studies have shown that giving babies Vitamin K2 instead of the Vitamin K shot might help with bleeding issues while promoting a healthy gut flora at the same time, so this is another option to keep in mind if you are concerned about your baby’s future health and what types of things they come into contact with after they are born.
Antibiotics and colic
Babies that get a lot of antibiotics from the hospital might need extra help getting rid of their colic since it weakens their digestive system and can cause them to get sick over time.
Some babies only get a few doses of antibiotics before they go home, while others have to keep returning to make sure nothing else is going on with them.
If your baby stays in the hospital for a long while before going home, there is a higher chance that they will get sick from all of the germs around them and it can make their digestive system even weaker.
You might not notice this right away since their colic could be really bad at first, but keeping an eye out for any other issues will help keep them healthy over time.
If you are unsure about which probiotics to use, take a look at the Living Clean Probiotic guide to learn more about each of the best supplements on the market right now.
When to seek medical advice?
Make sure that you are always talking to your pediatrician about what you should do when it comes to giving your baby probiotics and if their colic will go away over time.
If things don’t seem to be improving, ask them for any suggestions on how to help make your baby feel better. They might have some other options available or they will advise you to keep trying with different probiotics to see what works best for your baby.
Be sure that your child’s pediatrician is up to date on which supplements are safe for newborns and how much of each supplement they should have at a time.
This will help lower the risk of any side effects while keeping them healthy in the long run.
If your baby gets sick after having probiotics, stop giving them to your child right away and talk with their doctor about what you should do next.
It might take a little bit of time for the effects to go away, but it is better to be patient than trying something new that could make things worse over time.
There is some evidence that probiotics can prevent infantile colic, but more research is needed.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents try over-the-counter treatments before giving their baby any prescription medication for the condition.
If you are interested in trying a natural remedy to help your child with his or her gas and crying episodes, talk to your doctor about whether probiotic supplementation would be appropriate based on age and other medical conditions.
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