Sunday, September 14, 2014

Probiotics and Your Baby

By Glenni Lorick, IBCLC

Yesterday somebody asked me about why and how an infant should be given probiotics. Those are really important questions, so let's look at the answers.

What is a Probiotic?

A Probiotic is composed of living organisms -  "friendly" bacteria - that help keep the body healthy. There are various strains of probiotics, many of which are a form of lactobacillus. When babies receive breastmilk, they actually get prebiotics which promote the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria or flora. The low concentration of proteins and phosphates in breast milk, as well as the presence of lactoferrin, lactose, nucleotides and oligosaccharides may account for this effect.  

Why Give a Baby Probiotics?

Mothers who are exclusively breastfeeding often choose not to give anything other than breast milk to their infants. However, there is some preliminary research that may indicate the ability of probiotics to reduce colic in infants. Also, any time a mother or baby receives antibiotics, the healthy bacteria in baby's gut can be altered. We know that when mother's take probiotics, they pass the healthy benefits on to their breastfed babies. However, some doctors do recommend that infants receive probiotics as well, especially if mother and baby are both dealing with Candida A. (thrush). Of course, any time a nursing mother takes antibiotics, she should always plan to take probiotics, as well.

How to Give a Baby Probiotics

When a mother takes probiotics, her baby does receive the beneficial effects. Unless baby is having specific issues necessiating a probiotic, he may very well get all he needs via his mother's milk. If he does need an infant probiotic, many experts recommend using a powdered probiotic designed for babies and applying just a little to the nipple before nursing. Probiotic infant drops also exist, but an exclusively breastfed baby probably doesn't need to go that route. It is always a good idea to talk with your baby's physician about anything you are giving him. But there are generally no harmful side effects to small amounts of probiotics.  Always be sure to follow the manufacturer's dosing  recommendations.

If you have used probiotics with your baby, please leave a comment about your experience, what brand you used and what effects you saw. 

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