What’s the Deal With Infant Probiotics? Discover The Benefits, Safety, And More!

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7 minute read

There are so many opinions about how and what to feed your baby. For decades, the “battle” of chest/breast milk vs. formula vs. something in-between has plagued many new parents. 

But to complicate things further…there’s the idea of infant probiotics

These tiny bacteria are growing in popularity…but does your baby really need them? Or are infant probiotics just another trend that will run its course…? 

Let’s take a look at the top reasons why parents consider supplementing their baby’s diet with a probiotic. And why these little digestive superheroes may be right for your little one. 

But, before we dig into why or why not to use infant probiotics, I want to share with you a 10% discount to my favorite brand of infant probiotics, when you shop through this link.

Why Do Parents Consider Probiotics for Infants?

You want to help your baby be as healthy and happy as possible. And it doesn’t take long to see that this often starts from within — with a healthy gut microbiome! 

Because when your baby has a healthy balance of good and bacteria — also known as a microbiome — this improves their overall health throughout infancy, childhood, and beyond!

The process of building up a healthy gut microbiome starts at birth, but continues throughout their first months of life and beyond!

There Are A Few Reasons Why Parents Look Into Giving Their Baby A Probiotic: 

1. Growing Popularity Of Probiotics & Supplements:

From prenatal vitamins, Emergency-C, and fish-oil supplements…to unpasteurized products and probiotics…There has been an increase in the popularity of probiotics and supplements in Western cultures during every stage of life. 

Most often people take a probiotic or supplement to fill a gap in their diet or to support their health. But probiotics can also give your new baby a helpful start in life.

2. To Help Foster A Healthy Microbiome:

There is much to be learned about our babies’ environment in the womb. Many believe that babies are born with a sterile gut, and that they gradually form a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria in their bodies.

But there is more and more research into this topic as some believe that babies may start to form their microbiome while in the womb. It’s important for your baby to have a healthy microbiome so that their body can:

  • Digest their food
  • Regulate their immune system
  • Protect against other bacteria that cause disease
  • Produce important vitamins

That’s why you may want to supplement your baby’s diet to foster a healthy microbiome.

3. If Your Baby Was Born By C-Section:

Research has shown that babies delivered by c-section tend to lack strains of gut bacteria found in healthy children and adults. That’s because if your baby wasn’t born vaginally, they didn’t pick up healthy bacteria as they traveled through the birth canal. 

But probiotics may help to correct this difference by providing healthy bacteria for your baby. 

4. To Treat Your Baby’s Symptoms: 

As a parent, the last thing you want for your child is to see them in pain or discomfort. If your baby is experiencing uncomfortable symptoms like colic, constipation, or gastrointestinal issues…you may try lots of different home remedies and solutions to try to ease your baby’s pain. 

One such option is a probiotic supplement that can help to balance the good and bad bacteria in your little one’s body. This could help reduce their symptoms. 

Introducing Your Baby to Good Bacteria

But do you need to give your baby a probiotic to help them have a healthy microbiome? Not necessarily. 

Much of your baby’s microbiome is created by exposure to good bacteria during and after birth. This occurs through 3 main ways:

  1. Vaginal births 

When your baby is born vaginally, they are exposed to many beneficial bacteria as they travel through the birth canal. This natural exposure helps them to develop their own levels of healthy gut bacteria which is the foundation of their future microbiome.

  1. Skin-to-skin contact

You’ve probably heard that skin-to-skin contact is important for establishing breastfeeding. But it’s also helpful in supporting your baby’s microbiome. Skin-to-skin contact will expose your little one to bacteria that naturally lives on your skin. And this can help them to develop a healthy range of bacteria. 

  1. Through breast milk or formula 

Your chest/breastmilk is naturally rich in probiotics! This is good news for you and your baby if you plan to nurse. There are also formula products that are supplemented with probiotics. It’s important to look at the ingredients in the formula you choose to determine if the formula contains certain probiotic strains. 

It’s also important to note that later on, your baby will be exposed to good bacteria through playtime in the outdoors — Yep! Playing in the dirt is a good thing! — and the foods that they eat. 

How Baby Probiotics Can Help Your Little One

infant with baby acne sleeping infant probiotic possible indicator

But every child is different! And there are situations where a baby probiotic may be helpful for your baby. 

This can be the case if you receive antibiotics during birth — such as to treat Group B Strep — which can reduce the healthy bacteria in your baby’s gut. Or if your baby is experiencing symptoms from an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in their gut. 

By activating your baby’s immune system, probiotics can help to prevent or alleviate symptoms like:

These conditions can be very troublesome to manage and cause sleepless nights for both you and your baby. Baby probiotics may relieve your little one’s symptoms and help them cry less.

Are Probiotics For Babies Safe?

Probiotics are naturally found in many of the foods that we eat and have a long history of being safe for adults and children. 

In most cases, the research that has been done points to the safety of probiotics for infants. But more research is needed.

In general, probiotics have very few side effects in healthy adults and children. And probiotics can be helpful for many, but may not always be beneficial for all babies. 

So it’s always important to use caution when introducing any new food or supplement into your baby’s diet, including probiotics, in case they have a side effect, allergy, or reaction. 

And that’s why it’s a good idea to consult your child’s pediatrician before giving your baby a probiotic. 

It’s recommended to talk to your healthcare provider: 

  • To gauge which probiotic strain is best for your baby. 
  • To learn of any possible side effects. 
  • To determine the appropriate dose for your baby.

Potential Risks Of Probiotics for Infants:

Probiotics are not currently approved by the Food & Drug Association (FDA) as more research is needed on the effects of probiotics in general. 

If your baby is born prematurely, has a weak immune system, or health problems, they may have adverse reactions to probiotics. Proceed with caution by talking it through with your child’s doctor before giving your baby a probiotic. There may be one type that works better for your child’s needs than others.

And remember, there is no current standard that specifies a way to administer probiotics, particularly for infants. Not all probiotics are the same and may affect your baby in a particular way. 

Again, rely on the advice of your child’s doctor before proceeding. 

Types Of Probiotics For Infants:

There are natural sources of probiotics in your chest/breastmilk as well as the foods that we eat that contain live cultures. Some examples include yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, and probiotic drinks like kombucha. 

But until your little one is able to eat solid foods — usually around 6 months — if you want to give your baby a probiotic it will need to be through chest/breast milk or a probiotic supplement. 

Probiotics are sold over the counter as a dietary supplement and are usually packaged as a powder, capsule, or drops. 

There are two great ways to give your baby a probiotic: 

  1. If you’re formula feeding, use a probiotic-enriched formula. This is an easy option as you can simply select a formula that has the type of probiotic that’s best for your baby. 
  1. Infant probiotic supplement. This usually comes in the form of tasteless drops that you can easily add to your baby’s formula or pumped breast milk.

Pro Tip: 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.

Best Baby Probiotic Supplements:

happy baby laying on back before after infant probiotics picture

If you’re sold on getting a probiotic for your infant you’ll want to find the best probiotic that supports your baby’s needs. 

There are LOTS of different types of probiotics out there. Some of the most common strains that can be beneficial for infants are: 

  • Lactobacillus reuteri: Supports good bacteria in the digestive system and may prevent colic (Pediatrics Journal).
  • Bifidobacterium infantis: Supports overall health, digestion, and can help with fewer and better stools (BMC Pediatrics). 
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum: One of the first strains to colonize an infant’s gut, this strain helps with digestion and nutrient absorption (Environmental Microbiology). 

Talk to your child’s pediatrician to see what strain(s) they recommend for your little one. 

Once you’ve honed in on the precise strain of bacteria you’re looking for, you’ll want to ensure that you’re purchasing the best probiotic supplement for your baby. 

Purchase a product from a reputable and reliable brand like this one. And make sure to follow the storage instructions, as some must be kept cold.

Pro Tip: You can check to see if a certain brand is verified by a third-party organization like ConsumerLab.com, NSF International, and the US Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) (Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics). 

Should You Give Your Baby A Probiotic Supplement? 

At the end of the day, the decision to give your baby a probiotic supplement is a personal choice. But there are potential benefits for your little one’s health especially if you think their natural microbiome may have been disrupted during birth or in their first months of life. 

Supplementing the healthy bacteria your baby needs with a probiotic may help set your child up for success in the months after birth…and even much later in life!

Listen to your “gut” and talk to your doctor to see if infant probiotics are a good option for your baby!

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