June 18, 2024

Vita Nectar

Health is the main investment in life

Does My Baby Need Probiotics? An Expert Explains

5 min read
Motherly CollectiveMotherly Collective

You’ve likely heard about the benefits of probiotics—from supporting your digestive health to improving morning sickness in pregnancy. But what about the tiniest members of our families? If you’re wondering, does my baby need probiotics? Here’s what to know. 

As a neonatologist and the director of clinical implementation at Infinant Health, I field questions frequently from concerned families wondering if their newborns should be supplemented with probiotics alongside breast milk or formula. Probiotics for babies are not only shown to help alleviate symptoms like colic and gassiness, but they also play a pivotal role in enhancing the digestion of certain components found in breast milk.

One such critical component in breast milk is human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs). While HMOs offer numerous benefits, many infants aren’t extracting their full potential. This is due to the absence of a particular gut bacterium called Bifidobacterium longum subspecies infantis, commonly referred to as B. infantis. Surprisingly, research indicates that a majority of infants lack this vital bacterium in their digestive systems.

So, how does B. infantis work its magic? B. infantis possesses the unique ability to efficiently break down HMOs in breast milk. These complex carbohydrates, in turn, provide essential nourishment for the bacteria. By digesting HMOs, B. infantis not only helps babies extract more nutrients from the milk but also produces beneficial byproducts that contribute to a healthier gut environment.

Without B. infantis, these valuable HMOs nutrients bypass absorption. Instead of fortifying and shaping your baby’s developing immune system, they end up in diapers. Essentially, these prebiotics remain unused because the baby’s gut lacks the right bacteria to process them.

When I’m recommending probiotics for babies to my patients, I always assess what I like to call the ABC’s of probiotics. Looking at these key factors can help you make the right choice for your baby, too. 

A is for Action 

When choosing a probiotic, it’s important to first understand how it works once inside your baby’s tummy. Look for a “mechanism of action” for the product. You might want to do some research about the probiotic strains you’re considering and how they function. If you’re not sure about how the product works, it’s a good idea to think twice about using it for your little one. 

B is for Benefit

The probiotic you pick should truly make a positive difference in your baby’s health. How will they benefit them?

But here’s the thing—you’ve got to be your baby’s best advocate, and assess any packaging claims with a dash of skepticism. Certain strains of probiotics have strong research behind them to back their use in treating infant issues like colic, gas and diaper rash, whereas others may not. I personally recommend Infinant Health’s Evivo Probiotic Powder, as solid scientific evidence backs up the fact that B. infantis EVC001 (the strain featured in Evivo) is designed to help break down the human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) in breast milk—those essential prebiotics that your baby needs. 

To investigate the benefits of using other probiotic strains in infants, talk to your child’s pediatrician or use a peer-reviewed scientific journal database, like PubMed, to find recent research. 

C is for Composition

Probiotics come in two types: single strain (one bacterium) or multi-strain (multiple bacteria). When it comes to probiotics, quality matters more than quantity: Having more strains in a probiotic product doesn’t necessarily guarantee better benefits. I typically recommend opting for a single strain probiotic with clinically or scientifically proven benefits, as I feel it’s safer than using a combination of strains, especially for an infant with a developing digestive system.

Probiotics are living microorganisms, typically bacteria or yeasts, that can provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. They are commonly found in certain foods and supplements. When considering the safety and use of probiotics for babies, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a pediatrician, as individual circumstances may vary. 

The timing of introducing probiotics to a baby’s diet should be discussed with a healthcare provider. (As a note: Probiotics are designed to be used in babies who are born full-term.) In some cases, probiotics may be recommended in specific situations, such as:

  • Stomach issues: Probiotics may be considered for babies with certain gastrointestinal problems, such as colic, diarrhea, or constipation. However, the decision to use probiotics should be based on a healthcare provider’s assessment of the baby’s condition.
  • Antibiotic treatment: In some cases, healthcare providers may recommend probiotics for infants who are taking antibiotics to help maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria, as antibiotics can disrupt the natural microbiota.

Probiotics are generally considered safe when used appropriately, but like any supplement, they may have potential side effects. Common side effects that may occur in babies include:

  • Gas and bloating: Some infants may experience temporary digestive discomfort, including gas and bloating, when starting probiotics. These symptoms usually subside as the baby’s digestive system adjusts.
  • Watery stool or constipation: Probiotic use can sometimes lead to changes in bowel habits, such as watery stool or constipation. There’s a wide range of what’s considered normal with baby poop. Some babies have a bowel movement with every feeding, while others may have one per week. The color of an infant’s stool can also vary depending on factors like age and diet. In general, any shade of brown, yellow, orange, green are typical.

If you’re a parent seeking the best for your baby’s health, consider the ABC’s of probiotics—and be sure to speak with your child’s pediatrician in order to make an informed decision that truly benefits your little one’s well-being.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.


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