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Original research
Comparison of common interventions for the treatment of infantile colic: a systematic review of reviews and guidelines
  1. Julie Ellwood1,
  2. Jerry Draper-Rodi1,
  3. Dawn Carnes1,2
  1. 1Research Department, University College of Osteopathy, London, UK
  2. 2Faculty of Health, University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland, Fribourg, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Dawn Carnes; dawn.carnes{at}


Objective To conduct a systematic review of systematic reviews and national guidelines to assess the effectiveness of four treatment approaches (manual therapy, probiotics, proton pump inhibitors and simethicone) on colic symptoms including infant crying time, sleep distress and adverse events.

Methods We searched PubMed, Embase, Cochrane and Mantis for studies published between 2009 and 2019. Inclusion criteria were systematic reviews and guidelines that used evidence and expert panel opinion. Three reviewers independently selected articles by title, abstract and full paper review. Data were extracted by one reviewer and checked by a second. Selected studies were assessed for quality using modified standardised checklists by two authors. Meta-analysed data for our outcomes of interest were extracted and narrative conclusions were assessed.

Results Thirty-two studies were selected. High-level evidence showed that probiotics were most effective for reducing crying time in breastfed infants (range −25 min to −65 min over 24 hours). Manual therapies had moderate to low-quality evidence showing reduced crying time (range −33 min to −76 min per 24 hours). Simethicone had moderate to low evidence showing no benefit or negative effect. One meta-analysis did not support the use of proton pump inhibitors for reducing crying time and fussing. Three national guidelines unanimously recommended the use of education, parental reassurance, advice and guidance and clinical evaluation of mother and baby. Consensus on other advice and treatments did not exist.

Conclusions The strongest evidence for the treatment of colic was probiotics for breastfed infants, followed by weaker but favourable evidence for manual therapy indicated by crying time. Both forms of treatment carried a low risk of serious adverse events. The guidance reviewed did not reflect these findings.

PROSPERO registration number CRD42019139074.

  • paediatrics
  • paediatric gastroenterology
  • therapeutics

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  • Contributors DC conceptualised and designed the study, contributed to the data selection, extraction and analysis, drafted the initial manuscript, reviewed and revised the manuscript. JE managed the data, contributed to the data selection, extraction and analysis, reviewed and revised the manuscript. JD-R contributed to the data selection, extraction and analysis, reviewed and revised the manuscript. All the authors approved the final manuscript as submitted and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

  • Funding This review was funded primarily by the Australian College of Chiropractic Paediatrics (ACCP) with part of the funding provided by the College of Chiropractic Paediatrics (CCP).

  • Disclaimer ACCP and CCP were not involved in the literature search, extraction of data, analysis and synthesis.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Full datasets, analyses and full searches are available on request from the corresponding author ( No individual patient-level data were used in this study.