Does your baby need infant probiotics?
A common conversation amongst parents is whether babies need probiotics, hailed as digestive superheroes, probiotics are helpful for babies, from constipation to treating colic. They have transformed from an alternate health concept to a buzzword used by the health-conscious. But the question is, what are they?
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are consumed to improve health, and digestion and boost the immune system, and are bacteria and microorganisms. A misconception amongst people is that bacteria are all bad, and they are all commonly associated with disease and infections. While yes, you do have what’s known as ‘bad’ bacteria, there are also bacteria that are good for you. According to the National Institutes of Health, the human gut contains more than 100 trillion bacteria cells, 10 times more than the number of bacteria cells in your entire body - which is insane! It is well known that the gut microbiome is a complex and fragile internal ecosystem that begins from birth, so there must be some natural exposure to good bacteria to ensure good health. There are three ways that an infant’s microbiome is populated with bacteria shortly after birth:
- During a vaginal birth: the baby is exposed to a wide range of beneficial bacteria during this time in the mother’s vaginal canal. This helps the baby’s microbiome to establish gut bacteria.
- Skin-to-skin contact: being in contact with others shortly after birth is important for the baby, especially if they were born via c-section as they aren’t exposed to the mother’s bacteria during the delivery.
- Breast milk or good, structured formula: breast milk naturally contains good bacteria, and formulas are engineered so that they contain the essential nutrients for babies. Human breast milk is rich in lactobacillus and bifidobacterium infantis - these are found in the HiPP formulas Lactobacillus converts sugars into lactic acid, while bifidobacterium infantis supports the immune system.
Why would a child need additional probiotics?
An infant’s immune system is fragile so even the use of antibiotics during the delivery could wipe out all the healthy bacteria in their gut. It’s that simple. So, an imbalance of bacteria can cause symptoms that would distress both the baby and the parent. These are:
- Bowel issues including diarrhea and constipation
- Asthma and allergies
- Infant colic
- Acne and eczema
- Upper respiratory infections
- Probiotics serve to assist the body in remedying and/or preventing these symptoms by activating the immune system.
Infant probiotics: are they safe?
There is an extensive history of humans and animals consuming probiotics and being safe, while there are few studies that are focused on probiotic safety. They are already part of our diet naturally, so that’s there is to it. Examples of food that naturally contain probiotics are dairy products with live cultures - so as yogurt, and then kefir, fermented vegetables (pickles, for example), and kombucha, which is a probiotic drink. In terms of safety, the question of it would be more about purchasing it in supplement form, so the packaging it comes in and the form it comes in. Always purchase a well-known, reliable brand but pay attention to how it advises you to store it, as some must be kept cold.
Probiotics for infants
There are four methods on how to add more probiotics into your child’s diet, which is what we're about to go through now.
- Use a probiotic-rich formula if you are feeding using formula. Most HiPP formulas contain probiotics and use lactobacillus fermentum, which is naturally found in the human gut, vaginal tract, and mouth.
- From 6 months old, offer foods with rich probiotics. We recommend giving your babies fermented food such as pasteurized yogurt, kefir, and any others that are safe for babies to consume. Raw sauerkraut is sometimes given to children - or even kimchi - but these children are older and pediatricians have been consulted on the matter.
- Getting dirty. Yes, you read that right. It’s one of the best sources of healthy gut bacteria, so get your little one playing in the dirt! Some soils have probiotics known as Bacillus which can’t be given to the child via their food easily, so this is the best way.
- Probiotic supplements. Many parents choose this to add to their baby’s milk, and it works well because most of them are tasteless and can be easily blended into the formula or breast milk. One thing you must remember is that you should prepare the milk bottle first, and then add the probiotics otherwise the boiled water would kill off the good bacteria.
Having good bacteria in your gut has a profound effect on health and well-being, so it’s important to build your child’s gut microbiome from the moment they are born. Building it starts from birth but carries on throughout their whole lives too. Parents like us play a vital role in helping them get their probiotics and protecting their microbiome by assisting them to lead a healthy lifestyles.
We wish you all the best in caring for your little one and as always, we are right here in case you need us. If you have any questions, then our live chat is open. Alternatively, you can email our professional technicians for advice, professional and personalized support, and formula recommendations.