As a mom you are looking for the best for your baby. We get you. We also deeply care for babies. We know that at some point you have heard about baby probiotics. Often probiotics are used to support adult gut health, but there are special probiotics for babies.
But what exactly are probiotics? Are you in doubt about probiotic use? Have you ever considered giving a baby probiotic to your little one?
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are defined as live microorganisms that benefit health when administered in adequate amounts .
Probiotics can contribute to a baby's health in many different ways. And many studies have shown that probiotics are safe for babies.
Why use a baby probiotic?
Let’s back up for a second and talk about the baby gut microbiome. As you probably already know, the gut microbiome is an important factor for immune development and a baby’s overall wellbeing. The development of a healthy gut microbiota begins with a baby's exposure to microbes during birth and continues over the first two years , .
Many factors can influence your baby's gut microbiome development , . This includes, but is not limited to:
- How your baby is born, vaginal or c-section
- How your baby is fed, such as breastfed or formula fed
- Use of medications, like antibiotics
In these very early stages, the gut microbiome of a healthy, vaginally delivered, and breastfed baby is characterized by a high diversity of Bifidobacterium species.
These beneficial species are able to digest human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), which are special sugars found in breastmilk. And while these tiny bacteria are feasting and enjoying the HMOs, they produce short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that protect against inflammation and help maintain a baby’s gut barrier , , .
What to look for in the best infant probiotic
Probiotics are possibly one of the best supplements that you can take yourself or you can give to your baby. Baby probiotics can support the development of your baby’s gut microbiome and play a pivotal role in the development of gut and immune health.
Most probiotic bacteria are selected from the genus Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. And it turns out that supplementing with beneficial bacteria can support your baby’s gut development.
Bifidobacterium are one of the most important gut species for your baby. Using a Bifidobacterium probiotic will not only benefit your baby’s overall health , , but some of these species have also been shown to colonize the baby gut, supporting baby health for a longer period of time .
Bifidobacterium can easily colonize the baby gut because it’s not yet mature. This means more space, less competition, and more food such as human breastmilk sugars.
But not all probiotic bacteria are the same.
For example, Bifidobacterium infantis has the ability to use all types of HMOs as a food source . Other species, such as Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium breve, can use only some HMOs . This gives B. infantis a competitive advantage to colonizing the baby gut and support health.
Baby probiotics belonging to the Lactobacillus genus will most likely not colonize your baby’s gut.
This is because probiotic bacteria are not required to stick around in order to benefit health.
In adults, Lactobacillus probiotics are mostly transient species, meaning they do not colonize the gut. Likewise, most probiotics designed for babies will benefit your baby by transiently passing through. During this time, they can support immune health and fight harmful microbes in the gut environment.
Keep in mind that both strain and person-specific persistence may also exist. Meaning probiotics have a unique effect on each one of us.
When to consider giving probiotics to your baby?
You may want to consider giving probiotics to your baby for the following reasons.
1. Your baby was born via C-section
If your baby was born via C-section birth, you may consider giving a baby probiotic to your newborn.
During vaginal delivery, babies are exposed to a mother’s vaginal and fecal microbes, which then colonize the baby’s gut with beneficial bacteria. However, babies who are born by C-section are colonized with microbes from a mother’s skin, mouth, and the surrounding environment. Some of these bacteria may be harmful .
This difference in a baby’s first exposure to microbes shapes gut and immune development.
2. Your baby has low levels of essential bacteria, like Bifidobacterium
You may want to consider giving probiotics to your newborn to increase low levels of beneficial gut bacteria, like Bifidobacterium. As described above, Bifidobacterium are essential for the use and benefits of HMOs .
Many baby probiotics contain well studied and clinically tested Bifidobacterium species. Taking a product like this might help to increase the levels of beneficial bacteria in your baby’s gut.
Look especially for products that contain B. infantis, B. bifidum, and B. breve, since these species use HMOs and support baby microbiome development by stopping the growth of unfriendly microbes  .
3. When your baby is prescribed antibiotics
Antibiotics kill both disruptive bacteria and beneficial gut bacteria, which can lead to gut imbalances.
Changes in the microbiome after antibiotic use can last for months. When it comes to early life exposure to antibiotics, the effects can be even more dramatic. For example, antibiotic use in a baby can lead to long lasting changes in the gut microbiome that impacts health later in life .
It’s highly recommended to start giving an infant probiotic to your baby the first day you start with the antibiotic treatment and continue during the entire period of antibiotic treatment. We also recommend that you continue giving your baby probiotics for at least one to two additional weeks after you stop the antibiotics.
4. When your baby has digestive troubles such as colic, diarrhea, and gas
If your baby has any digestive complaints, you can also use a baby probiotic.
Certain probiotics have been shown to help with colic in newborn babies along with other digestive troubles such as diarrhea and constipation , .
5. When your baby has eczema or diaper rash
During their very first months of life, many newborn babies suffer from eczema. It’s been shown that the symptoms of eczema can be relieved by giving your baby certain probiotics, which can steer gut microbiome development and reduce inflammation , .
Probiotics can even help with diaper rash, a condition often caused by yeast in babies .
How to select the best product
Probiotics can be one of the most important interventions for a baby’s health. Because the market is overloaded with products, sometimes it isn't easy to find the best probiotic for your needs.
To help navigate market shelves, our scientists have created a checklist of questions to ask yourself when selecting a product. This includes looking for a product that is specific for your needs, that it’s backed by research, and that states all the necessary information in its label.
The bottom line on baby probiotics
Probiotics can be a great way to boost your baby gut microbiome since they contain beneficial Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species.
Probiotics can have different health benefits, but these characteristics are specific to certain species and strains. When you sign up to test your baby’s microbiome, you’ll discover their Tiny Health Baby Gut Type and receive recommendations for evidence-based probiotics that are dialed into your baby’s needs.