Everyone knows how probiotics are healthy for both men and women. Many readers have asked me, are these probiotics good for babies? Is there anything called as baby probiotics? Well, friendly bacteria will be friendly not only for adults but also for kids and infants. So, yes there is something called baby probiotics which are very important in developing the fytyre microbiota and immunity of the baby. Like in adults, baby probiotics confer to health in many ways.
Proper care must be taken to develop and maintain the appropriate microflora of the baby’s gut. This includes friendly bacteria and yeast. Baby probiotics will also help in fighting several pathogens such as viruses and other harmful bacteria.
A research proved that infants are able to digest milk more efficiently than adults due to the difference in gut microbiota. Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis is predominant probiotic strain amongst other baby probiotics. This particular strain colonized extensively in breastfed babies. Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis uses the carbon present in the breast-milk (acts as prebiotic). This particular strain diminishes with age and the new strain Bifidobacterium longum subsp. longum replaces infantis in adults. Bifidobacterium longum subsp. longum cannot use carbon in milk but it utilizes plant-derived carbon atoms efficiently (this suggests that adults must eat fiber-rich foods which are prebiotics).
How do these baby probiotics colonize? How do they find their way into the juvenile gut?
In the early developmental stages of the fetus, the baby is surrounded by amniotic fluid. This fluid was thought to be sterile but it isn’t. As the uterus begins to dilate during delivery (normal delivery or vaginal delivery), the friendly bacteria from mother invade the amniotic fluid. It contains different strains of microbiota and these strains depend on friendly bacteria the mother has. But the ideal amount of baby probiotics that colonize in the gut happen after the delivery through the oral invasion of the vaginal microbiome of the mother. It is this microbiome that determines the microflora of the infant and it also sets the path for colonization by different strains through adulthood. As the digestive tract establishes its anaerobic atmosphere, obligate anaerobes begin to colonize. Bifidobacterium is the predominant bacterial strain that colonizes extensively in the baby’s gut. The initial colonization by different species is known as pioneer microbiome.
The pioneer microbiome is very similar to the vaginal microbiome of the mother. The mother’s gut microbiome is also delivered to the baby while in the uterus. Apart from these, the breast milk contains different strains of probiotics and helps in colonization of baby’s gut.
During the embryonic life, the baby will swallow amniotic fluid which contains short-chain fatty acids (SFA’s). Breast milk contains human milk oligosaccharides (HMO’s). HMO’s and SFA’s are excellent prebiotics. HMO’s particularly promote the growth of Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis. Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infanits binds effectively with intestinal cells and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Role of baby probiotics in early life
Baby probiotics are the key players in the development of immunity. They maintain a close relationship with Peyer’s patches present in the lower part of the intestine. Peyer’s patches are a group of gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). They form the first line of immune response because of constant exposure of gut to the external environment (food, liquids, air etc.). The mucus lining present in the gut is worn off regularly. This exposes the epithelium and GALT to constant stimulation and inflammation. This information is perceived by gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) which include Peyer’s patches and the immune response is triggered accordingly. Gut microbiome stimulates the secretion of mucus layer by intestinal cells thus exposing the baby’s body to varying levels of stimulation. Baby probiotics play the key role in immune architecture.
Another important function of gut microbiome is to prevent colonization of gut pathogens by forming a physical barrier. The gut microbiome forms their own protective shell to protect itself from the acidic environment of the stomach. This wall acts as a physical barrier and prevents colonization of enteropathogens such as Escherichia coli. This mechanism is known as colonization resistance. Bifidobacteria are proved to prevent colonization of E. coli. This barrier formation is also associated with reducing allergies in babies.
Baby probiotics also help in reducing the severity of baby colic. Colic is a condition characterized by the increased crying of the baby. The exact cause of baby colic is unknown. It is believed that it is caused due to the underlying gut problem. Probiotics, which naturally help in maintaining good gut health help to reduce baby colic. A case study which involved administration of Lactobacillus drops to kids had lesser episodes of crying and reduced colic. Lactobacillus reuteri is proved to reduce the frequency and incidence of colic. Apart from colic, baby probiotics help in reducing acid reflux and diarrhea which is commonly seen in babies.
When should you give baby probiotics
Note: If you are giving probiotic foods (other than breast milk, yogurt etc.) or supplements for the first time, do it under supervision. Consult your pediatrician before stuffing up the baby’s gut with probiotic foods.
Initial days, breast milk will suffice as an excellent baby probiotic. Naturally fermented foods are an excellent source of probiotics. Yogurt is the most common fermented food that can be fed to the baby within permissible amounts. Other fermented foods such as kefir can be given in fewer amounts by diluting it with water. You can also deliver a couple or three drops directly into their mouth.
Once the baby is few days old, you can slightly increase the dose and continue giving the same.
Give them at least 15 minutes before breastfeeding.
This will help in digesting the mother’s milk more efficiently. You can increase the dose from few drops to a spoonful amount after 3 or 4 months.
When the baby is able to take different varieties of foods, you can try fermented veggies. But, remember to start with small doses and increase gradually according to the kid’s age.
There are both liquid and powdered probiotic supplements available out there in the market. Liquid probiotics can be given along with breast milk. Powdered probiotics can be given by either diluting in water or with breast milk formula. The mode of delivery can be seen in manufacturer instructions.
Consult your pediatrician before giving any probiotic supplements. Never attempt to give baby probiotics without professional advice.
Final Words, Wrapping Up
Baby probiotics and adult probiotics are different. Both contain different strains and have different functions. Although, some strains can be similar, they differ in their action. Adults require probiotics for general health, diabetes, skin problems, leaky gut and much more. Where as baby probiotics are needed for early development of immunity, gut functioning and confer to overall health.
Feeding baby probiotics in early days of life is proved to have beneficial effects. A study proved that kids who eat fermented foods (containing probiotics) had thick mucus lining in the gut than those who don’t. Baby probiotics confer to health similar to adults. All you need to do is feed the baby with probiotics (fermented foods or supplements) in small quantities while increasing the quantity gradually with age.
Dr.Shashikanth Vydyula is founder of Pocket Reviewer. He is a vivid health enthusiast with a passion for beauty, wellness & nutrition.
Last update on 2018-08-16 at 00:01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API