Should probiotics be given to babies?

All babies are born with a blank slate, ready to learn about the world, it’s wonders, people, food and environment. The baby’s gastrointestinal system or ‘gut’ is no different; as prior to birth it is void of all bacteria, or ‘sterile’.

As different types of bacteria begin to move into the gut, the collection of these are known as a ‘microbiome’ or ‘microbiota’. A baby’s microbiome begins to develop from the moment of birth and the choices that parents make for their baby from mode of delivery, first food, contact with loved ones, and the environment around it. These factors all uniquely populate a baby’s gut so that it is different to any other in the world. Even twins will have similar but unique microbiomes from the moment of birth!

The Importance of baby’s microbiome

In recent years the importance of a baby’s microbiome makeup for the maintenance of health has become apparent. Some types of bacteria are known to be healthier than others, and microbiome are healthiest when the good bacteria types outweigh the bad. This is most evident following a course of antibiotics; which importantly disrupts the bacteria causing illness but the healthy gut microbiome gets caught in the crossfire.

A healthy microbiome is important to help our gut and immune system develop and function. It helps to digest and absorb nutrients from foods, can prevent the development of allergies including food and environmental allergies, and can prevent the development of or treat dermatological conditions such as eczema.

Bacteria in the gut also produce vitamins that we use like Vitamin K and B. Different strains, or families of bacteria have different important roles in each of these. With the help of bacterial supplements called ‘Probiotics’, the microbiome can be manipulated to be healthy and functional.

For example: in infants, there is research to show that bacteria from the family Lactobacillus, called L. Reuteri, can help with feeding problems such as reflux that may result in excessive crying (colic), and improve constipation and diarrhoea symptoms after two weeks of daily dosages. A baby that is crying less, eating better and having less troublesome bowel movements sleeps better and grows healthier. So yes, your baby might benefit from probiotics.

Below is a table with some of the current research summarised about common probiotic strains.


Complaint Probiotic Strains that have been shown to help in studies What the research showed
Infant reflux Lactobacillus Reuteri When used continually for two weeks prevented the need for other pharmacy therapies or enhanced these where needed
Diarrhea Lactobacillus (various/multiple)
Saccharomyces boulardii
Used both during and after episode helped to restore normal gut function.
Infectious diarrhea/
Lactobacillus (various/multiple)
Saccharomyces boulardii
Used both during and after episode helped to restore normal gut function.
Antibiotic diarrhea Bifidobacterium bifidum and Streptococcus thermophiles Usage of these probiotics in combination may prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea in infants and children.
Bloating and digestive issues Saccharomyces boulardii Acts in three ways to; improve processing of sugars that cause bloating, promote a healthy gut lining to aid absorption and processes short-chain fatty acids, which prevents the production of gases in the lower bowel.
Viral infections Lactobacillius rhamnosus Shown to have immunity boosting properties, decrease the severity of viruses and colds, decreased frequency of respiratory infections, decreased the frequency of ear infections.
Eczema Lactobacillus Reuteri
Lactobacillius rhamnosus
Usage has been shown to decrease symptoms, prevent atopic eczema and reduce general inflammation.

What to consider when choosing a Probiotic for baby

Probiotics have increased in popularity and many products have come onto the market. When choosing which product is correct for your baby consider what is ailing them (and you!), their age and how you’ll be able to give it to them. There are also single strain and multi strain Probiotic varieties.

For newborns:

For newborn infants that are breast or bottle-fed, mode of delivery is very important; look for products that are suspended in oils that can easily be dripped onto the nipple or bottle teat.

For older babies:

As babies get older there are additional powdered products that can be mixed with liquids; though note; these are usually unsuitable for babies with cow’s milk protein allergy/intolerance and are a little harder to deliver if you’re solely breastfeeding.

Recent research also showed that pregnant mothers and breastfeeding mothers who took probiotics further enhanced their baby’s microbiome health.

Probiotics have been shown to be safe and beneficial for usage throughout life, though in pre-term and sick infants these should be used with the advice of healthcare professionals.

Information contained in this article is designed to be informative but not prescriptive. Please talk to a healthcare professional about whether and which probiotics may be best for you.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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