Sometimes an infant needs antibiotics to combat an illness that could rapidly spiral out of control otherwise. Unfortunately, along with their benefits, antibiotics come with a host of potential side effects as the newly established healthy bacteria present in the baby's body die off along with bacteria that causes disease. Probiotics, including the strain Lactobacillus acidophilus, could be a solution to antibiotics-induced health problems.
Antibiotics for Infants
For a baby infected with a bacterial illness, antibiotics can be a quick and effective way to rid the infant's system of the invading bacteria. However, when an infant takes antibiotics, the normal flora of the intestines, mouth and vaginal tract dies off as well. This allows yeast to overgrow, which can lead to diarrhea and vaginal, anal or oral thrush.
Lactobacillus acidophilus is a type of probiotic, a healthy strain of bacteria that boosts intestinal health and builds a population of gut flora that fights off invading microorganisms. Giving Lactobacillus acidophilus to a baby who is on a course of antibiotics can help her repopulate her intestinal tract to allow her body to fight off yeast infections and other invading organisms.
Lactobacillus acidophilus is available in a powder form that can be used for infants who are on antibiotics. The mother of a breastfeeding baby can make a paste of acidophilus powder with expressed breast milk or water and apply this to her breast just before one nursing session each day, online pediatrician Dr. William Sears recommends. The baby will consume the probiotic along with his regular milk. The parent of a bottle-fed infant can mix 1 tsp. of acidophilus into one feeding of formula or pumped milk. Older babies who have started solids may benefit from eating plain, unsweetened yogurt that has live, active cultures of Lactobacillus acidophilus. It is a good idea to wait one to two hours after giving the baby his antibiotics dose before giving him his probiotics dose to avoid the antibiotic killing off the probiotics. The parent or caregiver should continue to give a dose of probiotics every day for one week after the antibiotics course is completed.
The effectiveness of probiotics in treating side effects caused by antibiotic use in infants has not been well-studied, so controversy regarding the best probiotic strain remains. At least one study, published in 1995 in the "The Journal of Otolaryngology," found that Lactobacillus acidophilus was effective in reducing gastrointestinal problems and yeast infections in older children and adults undergoing antibiotic treatment. Other studies have indicated little to no effect from this particular strain, but have shown an effect when another probiotic strain, Lactobacillus GC, was used instead. Your pediatrician can help you decide whether to give your infant probiotics during a course of antibiotics and which particular strain to use.