From the moment they are born, a baby’s gut biome starts changing and growing. How it develops can make a big difference in their health. Most babies naturally develop the way we want, but a probiotic may help nudge it towards health.
Why Your Infant’s Gut Health Matters
What does it look like when an infant has a healthy gut microbiome?
They get more nutrients out of the milk they drink or food they eat and grow steadily. They have the right amount of stomach acid so that they don’t get reflux. They have a thick mucus in their intestines that prevents inflammation. And they process all their food so they are not gassy or constipated. They are happy, alert, and sleep well.
That’s just the start. A healthy infant gut can mean an allergy-free life.
Multiple studies have shown that babies with healthy gut bacteria have high levels of calming immune cells (Treg) and lower levels of allergic immune cells.
On the other hand, babies who are missing certain bacterial strains will have too few calming immune cells. Babies who are not getting and strengthening healthy gut bacteria have weaker gut and skin barriers that are more prone to allergic diseases like eczema and food allergies.
Probiotics Can Nudge Towards Health
The best thing parents can do to ensure their baby grows up with a strong, but calm, immune system is to make sure they are breastfed if possible, exposed to as few antibiotics, lead, and mold as possible, and fed a high fiber, low sugar diet with early allergen exposure when they start eating food.
Together, these choices will create a healthy gut and a healthy immune system.
Probiotics are a great way to support these healthy choices. In the same way that a daily multivitamin can supplement a healthy diet, a probiotic can supplement healthy lifestyle choices.
Probiotics add helpful bacteria strains into an infant’s gut. With the assistance of a healthy diet, these strains will begin to thrive in an infant’s GI system. At minimum, probiotics should add helpful bacteria that pull nutrients out of food, create mucus, etc. In the best case, helpful bacteria in a probiotic will out-compete unhelpful bacteria that cause disease, removing them from a baby's system.
How to Choose a Good Probiotic
A probiotic just means it contains bacteria. In the same way that there are different types of vitamins for different people (men/women/teens/children), an infant needs an infant-specific probiotic.
The right infant probiotic should have strains of bacteria that are most commonly found in babies with healthy developing immune systems, which includes specific, proven strains of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium lactis, and Lactobacillus acidophilus.
Make sure that the probiotic you choose has enough CFUs (colony forming units) of each strain (often ~5B each). A super packed probiotic with 20 strains may not have enough of any one to be useful.
Lastly, make sure that the probiotic is delivered in a liquid or powder that is not full of chemicals or unwanted materials.
The right probiotic can work to support and enhance healthy breastfeeding, formula-feeding, or solids to ensure a baby stays happy, engaged, sleeps well, and is free of tummy troubles.