Probiotics contribute to the treatment of many conditions, including high cholesterol and digestive problems. However, what may be safe for you may not be safe for your newborn. While probiotics do offer some health benefits, never give your infant any type of supplementation without talking to her pediatrician first.
Probiotics are a good type of bacteria that are found in your human intestines and they work by counteracting the damage done by bad bacteria. Your newborn already has probiotics in his system, but some medical professionals feel that increasing the amount through supplementation can reduce certain health concerns among newborns.
Newborns with colic, diarrhea or constipation may benefit from some additional probiotics. They help regulate the balance of good to bad bacteria in an infant's digestive tract, which could alleviate the symptoms of these conditions. A study conducted at the University of Naples found that administering probiotics to babies with chronic constipation resulted in more frequent bowel movements and an improvement in consistency of their stool. An Italian study found that infants who were give probiotics reduced colic-related crying from 2 1/2 hours per day to 51 minutes per day. It is thought that colicky babies have inflammation in the intestines that probiotics can reduce.
Fermented foods, yogurt and buttermilk are good sources of probiotics, but newborns cannot have these items so supplementing is typically necessary. Probiotics do pass through breast milk, so increasing your intake of foods that contain them means you are passing more to your newborn. Some types of infant formula contain probiotics as well. Probiotic supplements are available, in liquid drop of capsule form, and can be administered to your newborn under her doctor's care. Look for them at drugstores or supermarkets.
Some doctors feel that probiotic usage may not be effective or safe for newborns. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that studies done to examine the effects of probiotics on newborn babies was flawed and the results can't be counted on. Therefore, they don't recommend routine probiotic supplementation to newborns. Despite these claims, many other studies have found positive results from the use of probiotics for colic and digestive disturbances and as a parent, you must educate yourself and work with your child's doctor to make the choice that is right for your family.
- Pediatrics; Routine Supplement of Prebiotics and Probiotics To Newborn Infants Is Not Recommended; Touraj Shafai, MD, PhD, FAAP
- NBC News; Probiotics: More Hype Than Help?; Elisa Zied, RD; October 2008
- Reuters; Probiotics May Help Babies With Constipation; Genevra Pittman; July 2010
- Baby Zone; What are Probiotics and Prebiotics?; Beth M. Iovinelli, RN, BSN, IBCLC
- The New York Times; The Claim: Probiotics Can Soothe a Colicky Baby; Anahad O'Connor; February 2011
- The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology; Probiotic Found in Breast Milk Helps Alleviate Symptoms of Digestive Disorders; June 2010