If you're having a baby or already had one, chances are you want to do as many things as you can to ensure they are as healthy as possible. Vitamin D has been commonly recommended for babies who are breastfed and most formulas are fortified with it. But, what about probiotics?
My stance on supplements has changed over the years. I've written about supplements that have made big changes on my health over here. At this point, I'm a less is more kind of person. My hope is that you get most of your nutrients from your diet, but I do know there is a time and place for supplements. When you're little one does not seem perfectly content, giving them a good quality probiotic may feel like a step in the right direction! I do think there are certain scenarios on when a probiotic would be beneficial for a baby. This isn't to say they should take it forever, but they may benefit from it in the here and now.
Baby was born cesarean. A vaginal birth provides baby with a big dose of microbes from mama. This isn't the case with a cesarean birth. Giving your baby probiotics for the first 3-6 months after a c-section may help colonize the gut and improve the overall immune system.
Baby has infrequent poops. Your baby should be pooping daily or at least every few days. Some doctors are okay with a week or two without a poop, but I would prefer to keep it under one week, especially if baby seems uncomfortable or has a tight or distended belly. There is some early research supporting giving babies who are constipated a probiotic.
Baby has been on antibiotics. Please, please, please. If your baby (or you!) has recently been on antibiotics, please start using a probiotic! Antibiotics work really well at destroying all of the bacteria in the body - both good and bad. To rebuild that microbiome, a probiotic is needed for a a few months. This is doubly needed if baby was born via c-section, which this research looked at.
Baby is fussy. Whether your baby meets the criteria for colic (rule of 3: crying for more than three hours per day, three days per week for three weeks) or just seems unsettled, probiotics could help. While it totally depends on the case, I often recommend, if breastfeeding, mom take a real hard look at the diet to see if there is something that could be eliminated or changed. I often find dairy, eggs, wheat or gluten or caffeine to be factors in baby being unsettled. Or, if baby is formula fed, it could be the formula! Regardless, give probiotics a a try if baby is fussy and not settling in a way you would expect.
Baby has a known or suspected food sensitivity. Food sensitivities are often the result of a weak or "leaky" gut. Food is getting into the blood stream rather then going straight through the digestive tract. Baby's entire system is immature and still developing. They may be sensitive to certain things, but that doesn't mean it's forever! I've had many breastfeeding patients benefit from eliminating dairy from their diet. I, personally, experienced the elimination of witching hour once I eliminated eggs from my diet. What a change! Ensuring baby can heal their gut by eliminating the offender and rebuilding the gut with probiotics can set him/her up for a much healthier future!
Skin conditions. Does baby have more than just the basic "baby acne"? This one ties in with leaky gut. If baby is sensitive to food and can't eliminate it through the digestive tract, they may start to try to eliminate it through the skin. A probiotic, in addition to determining the offending food, may help.
There are a few general rules to think about when it comes to probiotics for your baby. You want one with multiple strains, ideally a bifidobacterium and a lactobacillus. Also, be mindful of added oils or junky ingredients. If your baby already has a sensitive system, you don't necessarily want to expose them to more potential offenders. When giving probiotics, start slow. Let them get used to it.
Here are two of my favorite probiotics for babies. "B" denotes for breastfed babies and "F" denotes for formula fed babies. They're in powder form which means they don't contain any seed oils like some other probiotics do.