Over 100 trillion microbes live in our intestinal tract, some of them are good and some are bad. Good microbes, like probiotics, can help support your little one’s health and longevity. Probiotics are like tiny superheroes that help to balance out our body's bad and good bacteria. They boost gastrointestinal and general health by supporting immune function and reducing inflammation.
Babies get probiotics through the foods they eat (like breast milk or probiotic enriched formula) or in the form of a dietary supplement. Research has demonstrated that probiotics are safe and well-tolerated in babies and children. Probiotics are important for newborns because they are born with a sterile intestinal tract. Exposure to bacteria before birth is dangerous for a fetus. So for nine months, babies live and grow in a microbe-free safe zone.
But after birth, microbes such as probiotics are introduced into babies’ bodies to aid immunity, boost infection resistance and nutrient absorption, and promote detoxification and metabolism. Infant immunity is largely dependent on maintaining an equilibrium of intestinal microbes; imbalances can lead to issues like abnormal gastrointestinal function, allergies, asthma, and more.
Probiotics offer a range of benefits to babies and may help to alleviate gas, constipation, diarrhea, and colic. They can also help support digestive system health in breastfed infants. Probiotic enriched infant formula reflects the natural contents of breast milk and works to balance your baby's microflora for a healthy life. If you’re looking for a formula with the same probiotic goodness as breast milk, one of our favorites is the HiPP COMBIOTIC®formula. Always consult your pediatrician before making changes to your baby's diet.
What are probiotics?
We may not see them or feel them but our intestinal tracts are a complex microbial system filled with approximately 100 trillion different microbes(microorganisms) belonging to more than 35 thousand bacterial species. Some of them, like probiotics, act as our very own tiny superheroes that help us function and survive. Others are populations of viruses, protozoans, archaea, and fungi.
With trillions of microbes in our bodies, how can we know which ones are good for us and which ones are bad? Firstly, let us define what “good” actually means in the case of microorganisms. Microbes that perform the function of supporting the health and longevity of their host are considered "good". An example of this kind of good microbe is probiotics which are a type of healthy gut microbiome. To be classified as a probiotic, a microbe should be:
Isolated - Able to survive in the intestinal tract after ingestion
Safe - Deliver a proven benefit to the digestive system and human body
Defining the Terms
Probiotics, according to The World Health Organization are a kind of healthy gut bacteria capable of altering the microbes of its host to produce digestive health benefits. These beneficial bacteria are supplied to us through food that naturally contains probiotics, or in the form of probiotic supplements such as drops.
Prebiotics are dietary fibers that feed healthy gut bacteria thus stimulating the growth and/or activity of beneficial gut bacteria to improve the health of the host.
Synbiotics is a term used to refer to food ingredients or dietary supplements that incorporate probiotics and prebiotics to provide health benefits to the consumer.
How do Probiotics Work?
The central role of probiotics is to maintain a balance between beneficial and bad bacteria in the body; probiotics achieve this in two ways. Firstly, by supporting immune function and secondly, by reducing inflammation. The result is that probiotics can help:
Keep harmful bacteria at bay & prevent them from entering the bloodstream
Breakdown medications and toxins
Produce vitamin K and increase the absorption of vitamin D
Enhance intestinal function to improve digestion
Are Baby Probiotics Safe for Newborns?
Research has overwhelmingly shown that probiotics are safe and well-tolerated in healthy babies and children, in low-weight newborns, and even in the delicate digestive system of premature newborns.
Although probiotic supplementation is considered safe, in some cases it may cause probiotic-induced colic. Because of this, you should speak with your pediatrician before introducing probiotics into your baby’s diet.
How Can Baby Probiotics Help Your Infant's Health?
Studies have proven that microbes are a crucial component of maintaining both general and (GI) gastrointestinal health. Probiotics are particularly important for infants because at birth babies have a sterile GI system. This is because exposure to bacteria before birth can be dangerous to the fetus. So for those nine months, babies live and grow in a sterile safe zone that is microbe-free.
However, after birth, microbes like probiotics begin to be introduced into babies’ bodies which helps to strengthen their immune system and prevent infections. Infant probiotics aid immunity, boost infection resistance and nutrient absorption, and promote detoxification and metabolism!
What is Microbial Colonization?
The process through which probiotics are introduced into our bodies after birth is called microbial colonization. Microbial colonization of the digestive system is influenced by a baby’s age, as well as how they were birthed. During colonization, the first microbes to move into a baby's intestines change the intestinal environment making it more habitable and paving the way for the next batch of beneficial microbes to move in.
Throughout colonization, different periods are marked by a dominant microbe strain, as time goes on, these strains diversify. It takes approximately three to five years for a child’s microflora to become more stable and complex. This diversification process is influenced by a variety of internal and external factors. As a result, each child develops a unique microbiome (community of microorganisms living in the body) comprised of an array of good bacteria.
Intestinal Microbes and Pediatric Diseases
Infants’ immune system health is highly dependent on the equilibrium of their intestinal microflora (bacteria and other organisms that live inside the intestines). Dysbiosis is a term that refers to a disruption caused by an imbalance in the microflora wherein harmful microbes become over populous. Dysbiosis is known to contribute to health complications such as:
Newborns have an immature digestive system. The muscles in their digestive tract struggle to maintain the rhythm necessary for moving food along the GI tract efficiently. For many babies and toddlers, this results in gas pockets in the GI tract that can create pain. For some babies, probiotic supplements can help prevent gastrointestinal issues!
The probioticshelp to maintain a balance between babies’ bad and good bacteria in their gut. These also work to ensure that babies have enough digestive enzymes to break down food and they reduce intestinal inflammation which together works to stop unwanted gas build-up.
How Baby Probiotics Can Help with Constipation
Constipation is an all too common problem amongst many toddlers and babies. It causes painful and infrequent bowel movements, fecal incontinence, and abdominal pain. To treat this uncomfortable condition, the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition recommends behavioral modification, dietary changes, and family education.
As far as dietary changes go, some studies have examined the effectiveness of probiotic supplements in treating constipation in infants. One study found that a combination of Bifidobacteriumand Lactobacillus sppprobiotic strains helped reduce constipation symptoms in infants by increasing the frequency of bowel movements.
How Baby Probiotics Can Help with Diarrhea
Probiotic supplementation has become an increasingly popular treatment choice for infant and child diarrhea. In a study examining the effectiveness of probiotic treatment of acute diarrhea in children two years or younger, children who receiveda probiotic enriched formula had significantly less diarrhea.
Interestingly, research has also demonstrated that breastfed infants tend to have lower incidences of diarrhea. The mechanism underlying this tendency could be that breast milk is a natural source of probiotics. So for babies who are unable to breastfeed, a formula enriched with probiotics may be a good option for helping to prevent or reduce diarrhea!
How Baby Probiotics Can Help with Colic
Approximately 30% of all infants suffer from colic which manifests as inconsolable crying. Recent studies have found that infant probiotic supplements containing L. reuteri bacteria show promise for the treatment of colicky babies.
Colic babies and toddlers who received this probiotic supplement had a reduction in average time spent crying. This investigation points to the positive effect that probiotic supplements can sometimes have in reducing colic symptoms.
Do Breastmilk Fed Babies Need Probiotics?
Breast milk is considered a functional food meaning it contains all the nutrients一 like probiotics (Bifidobacteria) and prebiotics (human milk oligosaccharides / HMO)一need for a healthy life. But probiotics levels in breast milk may be on the decline. Studies report that breastfed infants in industrialized societies have been found to have lower levels of probiotics in their GI system. This reduction in probiotics is thought to be related to factors such as the rise of c-section births and antibiotic use.
Probiotics play an important role in creating an undesirable environment for potential pathogens. It has been posited that this lack of probiotics amongst infants' microflora in industrialized societies has contributed to an increase in inflammatory diseases like autoimmune disease, allergies, and asthma.
New research has confirmed that supplying breast milk-fed babies with probiotics can play an important role in digestive system health. Thus, they may help to counteract this trend towards probiotic decline!
What Role Probiotic Supplements Play for Formula-fed Babies
For formula-fed babies, there are options for formulas that have been fortified with probiotics along with all the other nutrients your little one needs. The inclusion of probiotics in baby formulas not only reflects the natural contents of breast milk but also helps to promote a healthy balance of bad and good bacteria in your baby’s gut. These probiotics work alongside your baby's microflora to improve your baby's wellbeing. As an added advantage, a probiotic enriched formula may help to prevent or treat tummy problems.
A Formula with Probiotics and Prebiotics: HiPP Combiotic
Although many infant formulas contain probiotics, it can be harder to find a formula with probiotics and prebiotics. For parents looking for a breast milk-like formula, a formula fortified with probiotics and prebiotics is a great option as both of these nutrients are naturally found in breast milk! HiPP COMBIOTIC®is an excellent example of a synbiotic formula that is modeled after breast milk thanks to the addition of probiotics and prebiotics (galactooligosaccharides).
Like breast milk, HiPP COMBIOTIC® is a functional food that contains all the nutrients your baby needs. HiPP likes to keep things simple, that's why just like breast milk, its only source of sugar is organic lactose. It also contains the ever-important fatty acids DHA and ARA (Omega-3 and Omega 6) to support the growth and development of your little one. So there you have it, HiPP COMBIOTIC® is a great choice for giving your baby a formula that has all the advantages of breast milk! Please speak with your pediatrician first before changing your baby's formula.
Babies have delicate digestive systems, their immunity and overall health largely depend upon the balance of intestinal microbes. If the population of harmful microbes gets out of hand, babies are susceptible to an array of health complications. That's where our superhero friends, probiotics, come in. Although they may be small, their importance in infant health is immense. Their job is to make sure that there is a balance of bad and good bacteria in the body.
When probiotics are incorporated into babies' diets, they help strengthen their immune system and can help prevent infections. Probiotic supplementation has also shown success in helping to treat babies with gas, constipation, diarrhea, and colic. With the important role that probiotics play in babies' health, it's no surprise that they are a natural component in breast milk.
But that's not all, you can find probiotic enriched baby formulas too! Our favorite is HiPP COMBIOTIC®because it contains a combination of probiotics and prebiotics to give your little one all the nutrients they need. So there you have it, moms and dads, probiotics really do have the potential to improve your baby's health!
Please be aware that this information is based on general trends evidenced in babies, it is in no way medical advice. Your doctor should be your first source of information and advice when considering any changes to your child’s formula, and when choosing your child’s formula. Always consult your pediatrician prior to making any decisions about your child’s diet or if you notice any changes in your child.
Disclaimer: Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby, because breast milk provides your child with all the essential nutrients they need for growth and development. Please consult your pediatrician if your child requires supplemental feeding.