What are They?
You may have noticed baby probiotics in grocery and drug stores when you’ve been out shopping. In fact in the US, there is an ever-increasing range of baby probiotic supplements. There’s also a growing number of processed infant foods (infant formula, jarred infant food, baby cereals, and snacks) that are fortified with probiotics.
But what are probiotics?
Probiotics are live, friendly bacteria, which can provide adults, children, and babies alike with health benefits.
Can Babies Take Probiotics Too?
The good news is that babies can also take probiotics. Indeed probiotic supplements have been scientifically shown to help infants!
If you want to find out more information about baby probiotics, or infant probiotics as they are also known, then read on!
You’ll find lots of details here on baby probiotics including scientific evidence supporting their use as well as answers to those frequently asked questions that may be niggling you.
Doesn’t My Baby Already Have Friendly Bacteria?
The short answer to this question is yes!
Whilst in your womb, your baby’s intestinal tract is sterile – and so its free from bacteria.
From birth though your baby begins the process of acquiring the friendly bacteria in the gut that play such a critical role in health and wellness.
How your child is born, strongly influences what kind of bacteria your child will acquire.
Infants that are born vaginally begin accumulating beneficial bacteria including Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Escherichia coli (commonly abbreviated to E. coli) and Enterococcus in the birth canal with the very process of birth. These bacteria form the foundations of a healthy digestive flora and originate from healthy maternal vaginal and fecal flora.
Babies born via caesarian on the other hand, receive a different mix of bacteria at birth. This comes from the maternity hospital itself, notably from nursing staff and equipment and includes Clostridium and Streptococcus.
Following birth, the acquisition of digestive flora continues until your baby is around two to three months of age with most of this beneficial bacteria coming from the mother via touch, suckling and kissing1.
The way in which you feed your baby also has a strong influence on his or her digestive flora.
A breastfed baby tends to have greater numbers and types of beneficial bacteria than a formula fed infant, notably Bifidobacteria, Lactobacillus and Enterococcus.
These bacteria, specifically those belonging to the Bifidobacteria clan (genera) (e.g. Bifidobacteria infantis, Bifidobacteria bifidum, Bifidobacteria longum and Bifidobacteria breve) thrive in the presence of breast milk proteins and constitute up to 90% of a breastfed infant’s micro flora. They help prevent harmful bacteria colonizing the infant’s intestine.
Why Would I Need to Give My Baby Probiotics?
By this stage, you may be wondering, why anyone might want to give a baby probiotics when the child already has its own probiotic flora.
Well just as adults and older children can have an unbalanced digestive flora, so too can an infant. There are several reasons why your infant’s digestive flora may need a helping hand from probiotics including:
- Your baby is currently receiving or has recently undertaken a course of antibiotics.
- The mother’s digestive flora is unbalanced or was so at birth. Common signs of an out-of-sync digestive flora may include Candida albicans infection (intestinal and/or vaginal thrush), food intolerance symptoms, gut dysbiosis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms.
- Your baby was born by caesarian section. Research indicates that the digestive flora in infants born by caesarian section may be disturbed for up to six months after birth3.
- You baby was born prematurely. Research has shown that premature birth can result in a delayed and abnormal pattern of gut colonization with beneficial Bifidobacteria4.
Probiotic Supplements or Probiotic Foods?
Which is best? Giving your baby probiotics in the form of supplements or feeding probiotic foods? Well the answer is depends your baby’s age as well as the reason for giving your baby probiotics in the first place.
If your baby has been weaned onto solid foods and is healthy and you simply want your child to stay this way, then it makes sense to include probiotic foods in your child’s diet. Start these as early as possible so your infant get used to the sour taste of probiotic foods. Suitable early foods include probiotic yogurt and fermented dairy drinks such as milk kefir. You can also liquidize cultured vegetables such as
fermented cabbage sauerkraut) in a blender and you can rub some of the fermented vegetable juice into your baby’s gums.
If however your child has a specific health problem for which you have sought professional advice and for which you wish to try probiotic supplements, then giving your child baby probiotics is a good idea. Baby probiotics contain an adequate dose of probiotics for therapeutic use. They are also the best method of giving probiotics to tiny babies, who have not yet been weaned.
Don’t forget too, that your baby will acquire most of its beneficial flora from its mother. To ensure your baby gets a good maternal dose of healthy intestinal bacteria, make sure that mum too includes probiotics in her diet as well as plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, which feed the all-important beneficial bacteria.
Scientific Evidence Supporting the Use of Probiotics in Infants
Indeed a significant amount of scientific evidence also exists to suggest that giving a baby probiotics may provide health benefits. Probiotics have been shown to help a wide range of infant conditions including:
- Atopic disease including eczema, allergic rhinitis and asthma: Probiotics were shown both to help prevent and reduce these conditions. The studies used Lactobacillus GG, which is marketed as Culturelle Probiotic for Kids and Lactobacillus reuteri which is available in Biogaia Infant Drops)5,6.
- Colic: Probiotics were proven to improve symptoms. Lactobacillus reuteri which is available in Biogaia Infant Drops, was used in this study7.
- Diarrhea and Gastroenteritis: This study concluded that probiotics, specifically Bifidobacteria, reduced the incidence of these conditions8.
- Functional chronic baby constipation9. Lactobacillus reuteri, which is available in Biogaia Infant Drops, was shown to increase the number of bowel movements.
- Necrotizing enterocolitis in premature babies: Probiotics were proven to help prevention and reduce the severity of this condition. The studies used three different probiotic combinations: Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium infantis10, a mixture of Bifidobacterium Bifidum and Lactobacillus acidophilus11, and a combination of Bifidobacteria infantis, Streptococcus thermophilus, and Bifidobacteria bifidus12(latter marketed as Solgar ABC Dophilus)
Additionally probiotics for children have also been shown to have health benefits, which may be applicable to babies.
Where Can I buy Baby Probiotics
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