The following post was written by one of our monthly columnists: Christi Bennett. Christi offers a wealth of good ideas and practical tips on a wide variety of subjects. I'm thrilled to have her a part of our creative team!
Is your sweet bundle of joy more often a bundle of tears?
Does he seem to have gas all the time?
Is she colicky or fussy for some unknown reason?
Does the poor thing poop way too much? Or not enough?
I’ve been there, Mama.
It’s hard to see your precious little one in pain—especially due to a seemingly incurable bothered belly.
Let’s see how probiotics could help your baby (and you!) defeat her digestive difficulties for good!
We’ll start with the basics.
What Are Probiotics?
In a word, probiotics are bacteria.
I know. Sounds super-healthy, right?
Some bacteria are bad.
But probiotics are good bacteria, discovered in the early 20th century, that can have a lot of health benefits, especially helping promote a healthy digestive tract and immune system.
Probiotics can be found naturally in your body.
But it’s pretty easy for our bacterial balance (gut flora) to get out-of-whack. Unhealthy foods, stress,
parenthood lack of sleep, antibiotic overuse, and several other factors can all cause the balance to move toward the bad bacteria side.
This is where probiotics come in, as they can also be found in certain foods, drinks, and supplements.
Benefits of Probiotics
There are many ways probiotics can benefit our health. The two main ways are:
- Maintaining a healthy digestive tract
- Improving our immune systems
So, what does that mean practically?
Research has shown that probiotics can help in preventing and treating the following conditions and more:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Skin infections (eczema, cold sores, acne)
- Vaginal infections (including yeast infections and BV)
- Urinary tract infections
- Oral diseases
- High blood pressure
Different probiotic strains help with different conditions. And they may not help everyone. But it’s certainly worth considering!
So, What Does This Have to Do With Your Baby?
The thinking behind giving probiotics to babies is this:
By maintaining the proper gut bacterial balance from birth, you can help prevent many of the health issues listed above.
In addition, probiotics have been shown to help babies with
- Other intestinal problems
- Acid reflux
- And more
Probiotics have worked wonders for parents of colicky babies.
One study, published by Pediatrics in 2007, found that the babies given probiotics were only crying for 51 minutes a day after four weeks, compared with 145 minutes for the infants who were given simethicone (gas drops). Seriously.
Probiotics can also be especially helpful for c-section babies.
When a newborn comes through the birth canal, she picks up all kinds of good bacteria from her mother.
These good bacteria are not transmitted during a c-section. This could be why studies have shown that babies born via c-section are more prone to allergies and weaker immune systems.
But even infants that do go through the birth canal can benefit from probiotics. As many as 85% of women have vaginal infections when they give birth, which can interfere with the transmission of the good bacteria.
My Baby’s Story
Gather ’round for story time.
Once upon a time, when my daughter started eating solid foods (i.e. soupy oatmeal), she became chronically constipated.
For ideas on defeating baby constipation, check out this post.
She even started making a hilarious new scrunchy trying-to-poop face.
This went on for months. The pediatrician suggested pears, prune juice, lots of movement, and going dairy-free. When none of those things helped, they prescribed some laxatives and suppositories for little Lovebug. Those helped, but are not a long-term solution.
So, I became
a growly mama bear more persistent. The doctors did multiple tests (for celiac, etc.) that all turned out negative.
Then (TA-DA!), just before Lovebug’s first birthday, a friend asked, “Have you tried probiotics yet?”
I ordered some probiotics STAT.
Immediately, she started to poop normal poop! On a normal schedule!
I prayed prayers of thanks.
I even threw a party! Sure, we called it her first birthday party, but Hubby and I both knew what we were really celebrating.
Why do I tell this story?
Because maybe it can save you months of headaches and medical bills if you try probiotics first.
They might not help everyone as miraculously as they helped my Lovebug, but it sure may be worth a try!
If you think probiotics might help you, read on and let’s look at our options.
The Different Kinds of Probiotics
Probiotics can be ingested through fermented foods and beverages as well as through supplements.
Fermented Food & Drinks
Back in the day, people didn’t need to be as concerned about getting enough probiotics in their diet because people ate more fermented foods. Foods were originally fermented as a preservation method. But, now, those same foods are preserved in different ways so that the good bacteria are no longer present.
Some common modern examples of fermented and cultured foods include:
- Traditionally pickled relishes, vegetables, and watermelon rind (this does NOT count most pickles you find at the grocery store)
As with many vitamins and supplements, it is better to get your probiotics from food whenever possible.
If you have the time, it can actually be quite easy to make your own fermented foods. You can make a sourdough starter, or you can traditionally pickle various vegetables.
You can make your own super-healthy yogurt using a probiotic yogurt starter.
You can also buy probiotic yogurt and kefir at the grocery store. Just try to stay away from added sugars and look for multiple probiotic strains that have proven benefits.
If your baby is like my baby, he doesn’t exactly giggle at the sight of kimchi and kefir (or he might be too young to eat them).
Probiotic supplements are a great way to fill the gap.
But buyer beware!
Not all probiotics are created equal.
Here are a few things to look for:
- Multiple (go for at least 3) probiotic strains
- Strains that will help whatever you’re trying to treat (e.g. infant-specific strains)
- Microorganisms in large numbers—upwards of 1 billion for babies (or 10 billion for adults)
So, Where Do I Start?
First, make sure it’s safe for your baby (or you) to take probiotic supplements. People with terminal illnesses, damaged immune systems or intestinal tracts, IV lines, or several other health problems should steer clear.
As always, whether you have a condition listed above or not, always ask your doctor before taking or administering drugs or supplements of any kind.
Ok, now to the good part.
Some of My Favorite Baby Probiotics
Because probiotics are live organisms (so appetizing, right?), they lose potency over time and when not stored properly. So, when ordering:
- If your probiotic needs refrigeration, make sure you order from a company that will ship your probiotics on ice.
- Choose an expedited shipping option.
- Always check the expiration date on your probiotics! They can lose strength quickly.
There are many good kinds out there. Here are a few I like for infants.
- Udo’s Choice Infant Probiotic – This is Lovebug’s miracle probiotic. It’s a refrigerated powder that you can mix into baby’s food, drink, or breastmilk.
- ReNew Life FloraBABY Advanced Infant & Toddler Probiotic – This one is a powder with multiple probiotic strains. Best if refrigerated.
- Baby’s Jarrow-Dophilus Drops – This one has only one probiotic strain, but comes in drops and is room-temperature stable.
For older kids, there are other options.
- Probiolicious Gummies – These are gummy supplements for kids ages 4 and up (no refrigeration required).
- Culturelle Kids Packets – You can add this powder to your kids’ food or drinks. Can be kept at room temperature.
There you have it. Everything I know about probiotics.
Have You Thought of Using Baby Probiotics?
We’d love to hear your story.
Is your baby fussy and high-needs? Have you ever thought of trying baby probiotics?
Or perhaps you’ve been using them for months. Have you noticed a change?
Meet Christi Bennett
In addition to being a wife, stay-at-home mom, and monthly columnist here at Incredible Infant, Christi does freelance graphic design work, and manages her Etsy shop. She also enjoys photography, fine art, spending time with family and friends, being organized, chocolate, reading, and being outdoors.