Tiny Case Study: How Beneficial Bacteria Can Support a Peaceful Night’s Sleep


Sleep issues can have its start in the gut - get the answers with mess-free, at-home test. Get the baby test
Sleep issues can have its start in the gut - get the answers with mess-free, at-home test. Get the baby test

If you’re a parent, you know there is nothing quite like those first few weeks after your little one enters the world. Soaking in all the snuggles, introducing them to your relatives and friends, adjusting to your new role as Mom or Dad. More often than not, those joy-filled days roll into exhausting nights. You expected to be tired. But now you really know tired.

For Lauren and Daniel*, exhausted took on a whole new meaning. Within a week of their daughter Emma’s birth, they could see she was uncomfortable and struggling to sleep. Weeks of lactation support, medications, tests at the pediatrician, and even a hospital stay later, Lauren looked to Tiny Health’s Baby Gut Health Test for answers. 

Searching for answers for your little one? If so, this Tiny Health case study is for you.

Keep reading to learn how Emma’s gut health results were the key to unlocking a peaceful night’s sleep.

They tried everything to help their baby sleep comfortably

Little Emma arrived into the world via an uncomplicated vaginal birth. From the start, Lauren leaned into support and advice from her midwife, who is an IBCLC-certified lactation consultant. And despite Emma being their first child, the new parents could tell something wasn’t quite right.

“By the end of the first week with Emma, she appeared to have abdominal discomfort. We could see this from her very large spitting up, excessive crying, severe difficulty sleeping, flinching and crunching in towards her abdomen, and excessive stools and gas,” Lauren recalls. The parents started her on an infant probiotic their midwife recommended, but Emma’s symptoms didn’t improve.

Parents like Lauren and Daniel are not alone, however. Research suggests that 20% of infants under 12 months experience colic, and 30% experience regurgitation, or reflux [1].  

Emma’s discomfort continued to escalate. At four weeks old, placing Emma on her back resulted in her waking 5 minutes later. Screaming, flatulence, groaning, squirming, and did we mention screaming? She could only sleep upright on someone’s chest. Lauren started Emma on omeprazole, an acid reflux medication, for a few weeks. It didn’t help either. 

Lauren and Daniel tried everything they could think of to make Emma more comfortable. Their pediatrician arranged for a hospital stay when Emma was 7 weeks old. There, a multi-disciplinary team of nurses, a pediatrician, an occupational therapist, a speech pathologist, lactation consultants, a dietitian, and a gastroenterologist examined her issues closely. A stool test ordered by the pediatrician revealed no viruses or parasites. 

“After a few days in the hospital, [the team] was still confused why Emma was in so much pain,” Lauren shares. 

From a Total Elimination Diet and Tongue Tie Surgery

During her hospital stay, Emma’s care team suggested the issues may be diet-related. Lauren had already tried cutting dairy and soy, but it didn’t help. So she started a Total Elimination Diet (TED) with a dietitian from Free to Feed

“After starting the TED, Emma stopped screaming endlessly,” shares Lauren. “However, her gassiness and large spit ups remained. Her stools had excessive mucus and a foul smell—not the usual “sweet” smell you expect with breastfed babies.” 

Next, Emma had laser surgery for an oral tie (tongue tie) that was causing her to swallow too much air during nursing. Together with oral exercises, this helped reduce the size of Emma’s spit ups. But not the gas, mucus, or foul smell. 

“We felt really helpless, especially when we were already trying so many things that our medical staff had recommended,” Lauren says. She had trouble reintroducing foods without any significant improvements. Emma still could not sleep well without being held upright on someone’s chest. Lauren’s dietitian said this was unusual and that the mucus might be due to a gut health issue.

Little did she know that Lauren was already hot on the trail. 

“Incredibly Validating” - Getting to the Root Cause With Emma’s Baby Gut Test

Weeks earlier, Lauren learned about Tiny Health from a blog post and ordered a Baby Gut Health Test kit. Using the mess-free swab, Lauren sampled one of Emma’s diapers and mailed it in for sequencing. Just a week after discussing gut health with her dietitian, Lauren received her baby’s results. 

“They showed that Emma had an excessive amount of E. coli in her sample,” Lauren shares. “I was quite concerned about it when we got the results back. However, it was incredibly validating as I knew that there had to be something missing.”

Screenshot of Tiny Health baby gut health report showing E. coli and other dominant microbe species in an 11-week-old baby's gut
In Emma’s 11-week sample, her gut was dominated by multiple E. coli strains. These unfriendly, opportunistic bacteria can irritate the gut, especially if beneficial microbes are missing.

It is important to note that E. coli are commonly found in the gut, especially in babies. Most strains are harmless and can even help train a baby’s immune system [2]. But only when kept in check by beneficial microbes like Bifidobacterium. These friendly bacteria are passed from mom to baby during birth and through breastmilk and help lower the gut pH to protect against unfriendly microbes [3], [4]. And they also help baby digest much-needed human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) found in breastmilk [5].

Here’s where things get interesting. Emma’s first Tiny Health sample had no Bifidobacterium detected. Despite her vaginal birth and diet of breastmilk. Thankfully, Tiny Health gave Lauren recommendations to address the imbalance and start healing Emma’s gut.

Evidence-Based Advice to Heal the Infant Gut

The first priority on Emma’s personalized Action Plan was giving her an HMO-digesting Bifidobacterium probiotic, containing specific strains that she needed. Lauren still had concerns about food sensitivities, so she was pleased that she could choose from allergen-friendly options vetted by the Tiny Health team. 

Note: Not all babies need a probiotic. In fact, in some cases Tiny Health recommends stopping a probiotic. It all comes down to your unique gut microbiome and where support is needed. For your own personalized recommendations, visit the Tiny Health store to get a gut health test.

Within 2 weeks of starting the probiotic, Emma’s gas issues improved. Her stools were no longer foul-smelling with excessive mucus. Lauren was able to reintroduce foods into her own diet, while identifying specific allergens that Emma was sensitive to. 

Best of all, Emma and her parents could get a peaceful night’s sleep, finally able to lay her in her cot without her waking minutes later in discomfort. 

“The first night Daniel and I left her in her cot and slept in our bed together at the same time was a surreal moment,” Lauren recalls. “We had not been able to do that since she was about 2 weeks old.”  

When Emma was 5 months old, Lauren resampled her gut, and was amazed at the results.  Emma’s gut microbiome shifted from 4% to 97% beneficial bacteria! Meanwhile, her unfriendly bacteria dropped from 72% to just 2%. 

By following probiotic recommendations in her personalized Tiny Health Action Plan, Lauren shifted her baby’s gut microbiome toward a healthy community, with a high proportion of beneficial species.

By Emma’s second sample, her gut had high and healthy levels of Bifidobacterium, a sign of a healthy infant microbiome.

Screenshot of a Tiny Health baby gut health report showing 97.14% Bifidobacterium
In her 11-week sample, baby Emma had no Bifidobacterium detected in her gut. Following Tiny Health’s recommendations, Emma’s 5 month sample showed Bifidobacterium dominating her gut and crowding out unfriendly bacteria. The ideal baby microbiome is comprised mostly of Bifidobacterium which digest HMO sugars in breastmilk and support immune development.

Lauren couldn’t be more pleased with Emma’s progress. Under the care of an allergist, Lauren successfully reintroduced wheat at 8 months old, and dairy and soy at 10 months old. The only thing the family excludes from Emma’s diet is more raw forms of egg, a sensitivity her allergist suspects Emma will soon outgrow.

“If it weren’t for Tiny Health, I might still be struggling to reintroduce foods into my diet and still needing to take shifts with my partner to hold her while she sleeps! She is now a great sleeper. I am incredibly grateful that I found your team when I did as we had exhausted every other possibility.”

*Note: We’ve changed all of the names in this real life Tiny Health success story to protect the family’s privacy.

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[1] Y. Vandenplas et al., “Prevalence and Health Outcomes of Functional Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Infants From Birth to 12 Months of Age,” J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr, vol. 61, no. 5, pp. 531–537, Nov. 2015, doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000000949.

[2] T. Vatanen et al., “Variation in Microbiome LPS Immunogenicity Contributes to Autoimmunity in Humans,” Cell, vol. 165, no. 4, pp. 842–853, May 2016, doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2016.04.007.

[3] C. Milani et al., “Exploring Vertical Transmission of Bifidobacteria from Mother to Child,” Appl Environ Microbiol, vol. 81, no. 20, pp. 7078–7087, Oct. 2015, doi: 10.1128/AEM.02037-15.

[4] P. Ferretti et al., “Mother-to-Infant Microbial Transmission from Different Body Sites Shapes the Developing Infant Gut Microbiome,” Cell Host Microbe, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 133-145.e5, Jul. 2018, doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2018.06.005.

[5] D. A. Sela and D. A. Mills, “Nursing our microbiota: molecular linkages between bifidobacteria and milk oligosaccharides,” Trends Microbiol, vol. 18, no. 7, pp. 298–307, Jul. 2010, doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2010.03.008.