In the study, newborns that received a daily dose of the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri had fewer episodes of inconsolable crying (colic), constipation and regurgitation (reflux) at age three months compared to newborns given a placebo.
Use of probiotics also had benefits in terms of reducing health care expenses, such as money spent on emergency department visits, or money lost when parents took time off work. On average, families with infants that took probiotics saved about $119 per child, the researchers said.
However, more research is needed to confirm the findings before it can be recommended for newborns, experts say. Currently, doctors do not recommend that probiotics be used routinely in infants, said Dr. William Muinos, co-director of the gastroenterology department at Miami Children's Hospital, who was not involved with the study.
And although the treatment was not related to any harmful events in the current study, use of probiotics could potentially pose risks to newborns, Muinos said. For example, the lining of a newborn's intestinal tract is less mature, and more porous, than that of an older child, which could cause some bacteria to seep into the blood stream, Muinos said. This risk will need to be evaluated in future studies, Muinos said.
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Image: Peacefully sleeping infant, via Shutterstock