Does my baby REALLY need Probiotics?

Does my baby/toddler need to take probiotics?

As a pediatric and family chiropractor I see a lot of newborn babies and young children.  A question I am always asked is if children should take probiotics.  More and more research comes out every year promoting the benefits of balanced gut bacteria (microflora) and the positive effect on healthy brain function as well as immune system benefits.  I believe all children, including babies, should be on a probiotic supplement.

Why do children need probiotics?

Your baby received their first dose of gut flora during the birth process when travelling through the birth canal.  Now if your flora is abnormal or out of balance that means your baby’s flora will also be abnormal.  The organisms that live in your vaginal canal are the first flora to line your baby’s intestinal tract.  The purpose of probiotics is to help balance the gut flora (micro biome) to improve the function of the gastro intestinal (GI) system.  The GI system is essential to absorb proper nourishment to grow and to defend the body from unwanted pathogens.

What if I’ve had a C-section?

As discussed above the first exposure your baby gets to build the micro biome is from the birth canal.  If your baby was born by Cesarean section then he/she missed the birth canal and went directly from the mother to a sterile operating room, missing out on the first dose of natural flora.  Because of this it is even more important to start a probiotic supplement as soon as possible.

Does it matter what probiotics I give my baby/toddler?

Just like everything in this world, the quality of the supplement is the most important.  You will first want to take a supplement that has to be refrigerated which means the cultures are live.  For a young baby you will want to take a supplement that is safe for a newborn’s babies intestinal tract.  At my office I recommend a product made by Genestra called HMF which stands for Human Micro Flora.  These human sourced bacterial strains are non-pathogenic and have high survival rates through the stomach and colonize well in the intestinal tract.  It does no good to you if your probiotics are killed by the acid in the stomach before they even make it to the GI tract.

Does it matter if I am breastfeeding or formula feeding?

As you can imagine breastfeeding and formula feeding provide different nutrients to your baby.  This is the reason we recommend 2 different type of probiotics to help your baby’s GI system no matter how they receive their nutrients.  We recommend HMF Baby B (breast fed) and HMF Baby F (formula fed).

Will probiotics help my child’s immune system?

Your child’s gut is their first line of defence in terms of immunity.  Most pathogens enter our bodies through the GI system.  If our gut is balanced, there is a better chance our bodies will stop the pathogen from entering the blood stream.  For children 4 and older and in school we recommend a product called HMF Fit for School.  This probiotic is a chewable tablet that also contains Vitamin C and Vitamin D.  A study using this probiotic found that children had 33% fewer incidence of upper respiratory infections, a decrease in numbers of days with a respiratory infection, and 30% decrease in school absenteeism! 1

Where should I buy a good quality probiotic?

The best place to find a good quality probiotic would be through a naturopath or a regulated health professional.  At my office we stock the Genestra products I talk about in this article, and Genestra products can also be found online.  The next best place would be to find a reputable health food store.

My child is taking a probiotic but stills seems to be constantly sick. (or gassy, colicky, constipated)

If your child is taking a good quality probiotic and you still find their GI system is not functioning properly, then I would suggest having their nervous system checked.  As a pediatric and family chiropractor I’ve found that if a child’s nervous system is stressed, this decreases the over function of the GI system.  A stressed nervous system can be caused by things like a difficult birth process to falling off a chair.  If you would like to have your baby or child checked give our office a call at (519) 641-5995.

Probiotics and Vitamin C for the Prevention of Respiratory Tract Infections in Children Attending Preschool: A Randomised Controlled Pilot Study  (Garaiova at al. 2014)