Infant Probiotics: Does Your Baby Need Them?
If you spend any time talking to moms of infants, the conversation inevitably turns to probiotics.
These tiny bacteria are hailed as digestive superheroes for everything from constipation to colic! In recent years, probiotics have gone from an alternative health concept to a lifestyle-conscious buzzword to mainstream wellness advice.
But what exactly are probiotics? In this article, we’ll explore what makes these “good bacteria” so glorious for immune function.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are bacteria and microorganisms that are consumed to promote general health, improve digestion, and boost the immune system.
When many people hear the word “bacteria,” they immediately think of disease, uncleanliness, and infections. Although it is true that some bacteria are detrimental to human health, there are just as many beneficial bacteria that promote our well-being.
The human gut is home to more than 100 trillion bacteria cells, according to The National Institutes of Health
That’s about 10 times the total number of human cells you have in your body. While this may seem overwhelming, human beings have a symbiotic relationship with these bacteria, meaning that their presence in our guts is mutually beneficial.
Natural Exposure to Good Bacteria for Infants
The gut microbiome is a very fragile internal ecosystem, and it is well established that the groundwork for a robust gut starts at birth.
There are three main ways that an infant’s microbiome is populated during and shortly after birth:
- During delivery. When a baby is born vaginally, he or she is exposed to an immense quantity of beneficial bacteria in the mother’s vaginal canal, which helps the infant to establish colonies of gut bacteria.
- By skin-to-skin contact. Skin-to-skin time is extremely important for all newborn babies, but it appears to play a particularly vital role for babies born via cesarean delivery as they are not exposed to the mother’s good bacteria during delivery.
- Through breast milk or a well-structured formula. Human breast milk is rich in probiotics, particularly Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium infantis, which are also found in our HiPP formulas! It is important to carefully research your formula options to identify which products contain these probiotic strains. The key role of Lactobacillus is to convert sugars (i.e. lactose) into lactic acid, which then helps to control the presence of undesirable bacteria in the gut. Bifidobacterium infantis is responsible for the overall support of the immune system.
Why Might an Infant Need Additional Probiotics?
The digestive system of an infant is delicate and certain experiences, such as the use of antibiotics during delivery, can wipe out the healthy bacteria in an infant’s gut. An imbalance of good and bad bacteria can cause a number of symptoms that can be distressing to both parents and baby:
- 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.
Are Infant Probiotics Safe?
Although few studies have specifically focused on the safety of probiotics, they have an extensive history of safe consumption by both humans and animals.
After all, they are a natural part of our diet!
Natural sources of probiotics include dairy products with live cultures such as yogurt and kefir, fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and pickles, and probiotic drinks such as kombucha.
The most important safety consideration with probiotics relates to buying them in supplemental form, which is usually packaged as a powder, capsule, or drops. Consumers should purchase a reliable brand that delivers the precise strain of bacteria you’re looking for. When ordering supplements, it is also important to pay attention to any storage instructions, as some must be kept cold.
Probiotics for Infants
Are you sold on getting more probiotics into your infant? If so, there are four main methods for doing so:
- If formula-feeding, use a probiotic-enriched formula. All HiPP formulas (with the exception of HiPP UK) contain probiotics. Specifically, HiPP utilizes a strain of bacteria known as Lactobacillus fermentum which is naturally found in the human mouth, gut, and vaginal tract.
- Offer probiotic-rich foods (6 months+). Fermented foods are wonderful for babies and toddlers. Safe options include pasteurized yogurt, kefir, and any food product that is safe for babies and toddlers that advertises having probiotics added. Sometimes families give raw sauerkraut or kimchi to older children after consulting with their pediatrician.
- Get dirty! Dirt is one of the best sources of healthy gut bacteria. Allowing your little one to play in the dirt is a great way to increase exposure. Soils contain probiotics known as Bacillus which is not easily obtained from food sources.
Give an infant probiotic supplement. Many moms choose to add a probiotic to their baby’s milk. Most supplements are tasteless and blend easily into the formula or pumped breast milk. Remember to add the probiotic supplement after preparing the formula or milk, since the heat is likely to kill off the good bacteria if added prior to warming.
If probiotic supplementation is the direction you want to go, we have recommendations. Check out the infographic below for our list of the best infant probiotic supplements for babies:
The presence of good bacteria in the human gut has a profound impact on individual immunity and well-being. The process of building up a healthy gut microbiome starts at birth and continues throughout infancy, childhood, and beyond!
As parents, we play an important role in helping our infants obtain beneficial gut bacteria in the form of baby probiotics, as well as protecting the gut microbiome by encouraging them to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Huggable wishes you all the best in caring for your little one, and we are always here if you have questions! For personalized support, formula recommendations and more, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.