Probiotics are so popular right now, they are practically a buzzword. Most of us have heard they are good for us, and even our babies, but we may not know how or why they could be beneficial to us. I myself have only been aware of the benefits of probiotics for a couple of years. So, my chief aim here is to demystify them for you, to explain what they are, how they are useful and specific conditions they are helpful in addressing for your newborn.
What Are Probiotics And Prebiotics?
Probiotics are living organisms, mostly bacteria and yeasts, which can positively influence your health by increasing the number of microflora native to your body. They can be found in foods, such as fermented soy and dairy, and can also be taken in supplement form.
Prebiotics are foods that the body cannot digest that help increase the beneficial bacteria in your body and that nourish the probiotics and help them multiply. Most prebiotics are taken in supplement form, but can also occur naturally in onions, artichokes, wheat and asparagus.
Synbiotics is the combined use of probiotics and prebiotics to assist in the growth of beneficial bacteria, particularly after an illness or disruption in health.
Does My Baby Really Need Probiotics?
Babies are basically born with no microflora present in their intestinal tracks and they gradually acquire healthy gut bacteria in their first year through breastmilk and, eventually, some table foods. Breast milk does contain a strain of probiotics and your baby will get natural benefits from this if they are been breastfed. If your baby is breastfeeding, that is the only source of probiotics they will need for the first six months. Once they start consuming foods other than breastmilk, they can also get probiotics from yogurt, particularly yogurt containing live cultures. These two ways are generally accepted as the best way for your baby to get probiotics on a daily basis.
Probiotic supplementation however, can be recommended after baby has a long period of diarrhea or vomiting due to a virus such as rotavirus or norovirus. Such bad intestinal viruses can leave the body depleted of beneficial bacteria and their intestines could need re-colonizing. Supplementation is also beneficial when a child has taken a course of antibiotics, as this often wipes out all bacteria in their system, both good and bad, in which case it is important to encourage the growth of good bacteria again. When this is the case, a powdered infant supplement can be introduced and added to breastmilk, formula, or even put on a clean finger for baby to suckle. If your child is taking a sippy cup, it can be added to water as well.
Probiotic supplementation is also suggested when your child is suffering from one of the following ailments: acid reflux, constipation, diaper rash, baby thrush, eczema, gassiness or an ear infection.
A study done in 2011 published by “The European Journal of Clinical Investigation” found that babies being supplemented with the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri had showed a decrease in reflux symptoms and episodes of spitting up compared to infants who were not being supplemented. The conclusion was that this specific probiotic may help food be digested by the stomach much more quickly, leaving the stomach emptier and less likely to aggravate reflux conditions.
The results of an Italian study suggest that when infants with chronic constipation were given probiotics regularly, their stools had an improved consistency and they had more frequent bowel movements overall.
Diaper Rash And Diaper Yeast
Some diaper rashes are actually diaper thrush or a yeast rash. These can be painful and difficult to get rid of. Probiotics cannot cure a yeast infection, but they can help prevent one or you’re your child get over the yeast infection more quickly. Making sure your baby has probiotic sources containing lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium as these two help suppress the growth of yeast.
These kinds of rashes often occur after your child has received a round of antibiotics, so to prevent this, it is important to start a round of probiotics immediately after the course of antibiotics is finished. You could also supplement with a probiotic that is compatible for use while taking antibiotics to more significantly improve your child’s chances of not coming down with diaper yeast, such as live culture yogurt and those manufactured by Florastor. Try to remember to give the probiotic one to two hours after the antiobiotic is given, to prevent the antibiotic from killing the good bacteria introduced by the probiotic. You should also continue your course of probiotics for at least one week past completing a round of antibiotics.
Infant thrush is usually an oral thrush yeast infection that can be present in infants and also on their mother’s nipples. Infant thrush can develop after antibiotic use, but often it appears with no known cause. It is also difficult painful and difficult to get rid of and can last for weeks or months untreated. Unlike diaper yeast rashes, it can be greatly helped by the probiotic Acidophilus, available in powder form for infants.
Since the year 2000, a handful of studies have been released suggesting that probiotics can be helpful in soothing, and sometimes, ridding children of eczema symptoms altogether. Eczema is a red, scaly, itchy rash that appears on the skin of both adults and children. It is more common in children who have allergies, family members with numerous allergies and there is a theory that eczema itself may be a form of allergic reaction. At least two studies have shown that taking a probiotic supplement daily can decrease, and sometimes completely extinguish, eczema symptoms. The best results occurred when the participants continued to take the probiotics, even after symptoms had been reduced or eliminated.
Gassiness And Colic
Colic and the gassiness associated have been found to be helped by the probiotic lactobacillus reuteri as was shown in a 2007 study by the journal “Pediatrics”. It helps keep the amount of good and bad bacteria in the intestinal track balanced and reduces intestinal inflammation, which often is a contributing factor on both gassiness and colic.
Ear And Urinary Tract Infections
While studies have been done on the use of probiotics for ear and urinary tract infections there is not enough evidence to say whether or not probiotics really help these conditions. However, in any instance where your child will be taking a course of antibiotics, as is often prescribed for either of these conditions, it can be helpful to prevent yeast infections or diarrhea common when on antibiotics by giving your child probiotic supplements right along with their antibiotics. Again, try to give the probiotic one to two hours after giving the antibiotic and continue supplementation for an additional week after you have finished dosing with the antibiotics.
What Brands Of Probiotics Are Right For My Infant?
When comparing supplements to be purchased for a child who is under 12 months of age, the following should be true:
- It should be in a form that is easy to dose to a child and easy for them to digest, such as powder or liquid.
- It should be a stable, child safe bacteria.
- If your child has dairy or gluten allergies, make sure you are purchasing a supplement that is truly dairy or gluten free.
Below are some of the most recommended infant probiotics brands:
BioGaia Probiotic Baby Drops contain the probiotic lactobacillus reuteri, particularly good for treating acid reflux, general gassiness, and colic.
Udo’s Choice Infant’s Blend Probiotic contains both lactobacillus acidophilus and bfidobacterium bfidum which are helpful in treating yeast diaper rash and infant thrush and any condition where antiobiotics are prescribed. A note here: This product claims to be dairy and gluten free, but the label indicates it may contain traces of milk powder, whey and soy lecithin.
Jarrow Formulations Jarrow Baby’s Jarro Dophilus is a good multi-use probiotic infants and children up to age four. It does, however, contain milk, fish and soy in trace amounts.
Amerifit Culturelle Probiotics for Kids is also a general use probiotic, good for multiple conditions. It is safe for children up to 100 pounds and is dairy, wheat and soy free. It also contains no sucrose, corn syrup, artificial colorings or preservatives.
Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic Infant Formula is a great probiotic consisting of five different lactobacillus strains and five different bfidobacterium species. It is completely hypoallergenic and is formulated for infants to toddlers at two years of age. It is a good preventative and daily use probiotic supplement.
I hope I have helped in some small way to clarify what probiotics are, potential benefits and how they can benefit your child. Though relatively new in mainstream settings, the idea of using specific bacteria, now called probiotics, to help balance the body and restore order after illness or antibiotics is more than one hundred years old. Probiotics cannot harm your child when administered properly, so if you think your little one can benefit, give them a try!