Probiotics are live, ‘friendly’bacteria that may help promote a healthy digestive system and immune system when consumed. These microorganisms are similar to the ‘friendly’ strains of bacteria that naturally reside in your digestive tract. Probiotics can either be consumed in food or taken as a supplement. It is a common practice for parents to give kids foods like yogurt that contain probiotics to help resolve digestive issues.
However, many parents wonder if it is beneficial or even safe to give an infant probiotic supplements which are marketed to boost the immune system and help with problems like colic, digestive issues or eczema. Here is the science behind why probiotics may help resolve these issues. Newborns have a digestive tract devoid of the ‘friendly’ bacteria (also called ‘flora’) at birth. Babies born vaginally are exposed to the friendly bacteria when passing through the vaginal canal and this flora then starts to populate in the digestive tract. The flora assists with digestion and also helps establish a heathy immune system. Babies born by C-Section do not have this initial exposure to friendly bacteria and, as a result, the type of flora in their digestive systems is different than that of vaginally born babies. Although more research is needed, some experts feel this may explain why a higher percentage of C-section babies are diagnosed with colic and digestive issues.
There is not a lot of hard scientific evidence yet that probiotic supplements benefit infants and young children, but the data researchers are beginning to gather looks promising. A study published in January 2018 in the journal Pediatrics provided scientific evidence that a certain type of probiotic may help alleviate colic. In the study, breastfed infants with colic were given a supplement containing a strain of flora called Lactobacillus reuteri and the likelihood of the infants having bouts of crying was reduced 50% after three weeks of treatment. If your infant suffers from colic, digestive issues, or eczema, first consult his pediatrician before giving him probiotics to find out which strain of flora may help the most and what size dose you should give him.