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A trial of lactase in the management of infant colic

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Objective: To investigate transient lactose intolerance as a factor in the aetiology of infant colic.

Design: We undertook a randomized, double‐blind, crossover trial of lactase and placebo drops added to milk formula to determine whether this method of reducing lactose intake affected infant colic.

Subjects: Infants with colic were referred from clinics in keeping with Wessel's modified criteria.

Interventions: Infants were randomly allocated to add either lactase or placebo drops to their formula feeds for 1 week, followed by 2 days ‘wash out’. The addition was changed for the second week so that subjects served as their own control. The formulas were kept refrigerated for 24 h before ingestion. The parents kept a diary of their baby's crying time.

Results: Thirteen babies completed the trial, of whom nine were boys. The mean birth weight was 3.7 kg (8.2 lb). Colic symptoms began in less than 1 month in 12 of the babies. The effect of the lactase was to reduce crying time by 1.14 h per day (CI 0.23–2.05). The reduction in crying time was significant ( t=2.75, d.f.=11, P=0.019). Conclusion: Transient lactose intolerance may have a role in the aetiology of infant colic. Lactase drops require prior incubation with milk formula to be effective. The response to lactase in this study supports ‘colic’, i.e. spasm of the large intestine as a factor in these infants’ discomfort.

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Child Health, University College, Cork, Ireland 2: Department of Statistics, University College, Cork, Ireland

Publication date: August 1, 1998


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