As a savvy mother, and perhaps a savvy shopper as well, you have no doubt noticed whole shelves in your neighborhood supermarket have been infiltrated by baby probiotics. You’ve probably also experienced the onslaught of new information related to giving infants and children “good” bacteria.
However, before you jump on the ole bandwagon just yet, you may want to determine if baby probiotics are right for your little one. And, if so, which foods or supplements would be the best.
To answer this, we need to go back to the beginning when your baby was born.
Probiotics and the Birthing Process
It is a common belief that the fluids present when a baby is born are clean and sterile. However, research has shown that these fluids contain good and bad bacteria.
In fact, our very first introduction to beneficial bacteria (as well as the not-so-beneficial) happens when we pass through the birth canal and come into contact with, and ingest, these fluids. It is now generally understood that a large amount of our first inoculation comes from this passing through the birth canal. This helps to jump start your baby’s intestinal population which mainly develops in the first 20 or so days of life.
Interestingly, babies born via C-section develop completely different gut flora than babies born vaginally. This can have potentially lifelong negative health consequences including an increase in risk for allergies, asthma and other autoimmune disorders. It is therefore extra important to supplement your baby with probiotics in the early days of infancy if he or she was born via C-section.
Benefits of Probiotics for Your Little One
There are many benefits to giving probiotics for infants to your newborn baby or child. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that are naturally found in your body. However, these are not something your body makes, so supplementing with probiotics for infants can help.
The benefits of probiotics will range all the way up to older adults, but it is best to give probiotics to infants in their beginning stages of growing up. The reason for this is that it builds the proper foundation of good health and a strong system.
Building up the immune system
The most beneficial effect of giving baby probiotics to your little one is that it builds up the immune system. The immune system acts as the protector of the body and it is what fights bad germ cells or other malicious agents that can negatively affect the body. A newborn baby is born with a weak immune system and therefore it becomes susceptible to all the germs that it is not used to which is why newborns benefit the most from probiotics. Having a strong immune system, especially one that is strengthened from the start of life, will greatly aid later on when the baby grows to be an adult.
In one study reported by NPR, scientists in the US and India discovered that babies that were providing a probiotic strain of bacteria called Lactobacillus plantarum for a week had a significant decrease in risk of death from sepsis (infection) of 40%.
Reducing skin issues
Another great benefit of probiotics for infants is that it has many positive effects on skin issues such as eczema. Although the majority of eczema cases are through genetics, there are certain probiotics that have been studied and proven to slow down the rise of eczema in infants.
Better digestive health
Baby probiotics also aid in the reduction of infant diarrhea. Diarrhea generally occurs to having infectious bacteria in the body or some type of food allergy, and probiotics greatly aid in combating these allergies and bad bacteria. While probiotics are not a treatment if diarrhea occurs (consult your pediatrician if it does), probiotics can have a beneficial impact on your baby’s digestive system to reduce the likelihood of it occurring.
There are many benefits of probiotics for infants and it is important to fully understand about probiotics and how to provide your infant with them.
How to Give Baby Probiotics to Your Infant
The most popular practice for new parents is to give their child fermented foods and drinks. The best way is to ease your way in to it by giving gradual small amounts and working your way up to larger amounts.
Baby probiotics supplements are also available. They come in many forms from solid foods, liquids, to pills. It is best to start giving baby food with enhanced probiotics so it is very natural to the baby and work your way up to giving liquids and solid foods when the baby is older.
Probiotics have many benefits and are a great way to give a solid foundation to a baby or infant. As always, you should consult with your pediatrician or health care provider to make sure the probiotics you give to your infant are appropriate for your specific situation.
To learn more, check out this video from NPR that explains how the human microbiome is formed at birth and the role that good bacteria plays: