Good gut health is crucial during infancy and early childhood as it plays a vital role in the development of the digestive system, immune health, and overall well-being. The early years through infancy and childhood are particularly important for establishing healthy gut bacteria and microbiome. During this critical period, providing proper nutrition, breastfeeding if possible, introducing diverse and nutritious foods, and avoiding unnecessary antibiotics can support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. By prioritising good gut health in the early stages of life, parents can lay a strong foundation for their baby's long-term health and well-being.
Why do babies get upset tummies?
Your baby’s digestive system is still learning how to process nutrients and waste as they eat and drink. As their digestive system is still developing, there may be some uncomfortable stages they go through. Changes in diet, for example, introducing solid food for the first time, can be quite unsettling for some sensitive babies and this could lead to common tummy upsets or discomfort throughout the first years of life. Another common cause of upset tummies in babies is antibiotics, as they unfortunately kill off the good gut bacteria as well as the bad gut bacteria.
What can I do to help my baby’s gut health?
First, always ensure your baby has a good balance of nutrients in their diet. Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for all newborn babies.
Second, prebiotics and probiotics for infants are your friends! They both encourage the growth of “friendly” bacteria, which can help support your newborn’s gut health. Breast milk is nature’s own source of baby probiotics and prebiotics in the form of Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs). The combination of prebiotics and probiotics support your baby’s developing microbiome and is integral to their immune and digestive health.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms or bacteria which, when consumed in adequate amounts provide a health benefit.
The bacteria (live microorganisms) in our gut, form part of our gut microbiome, and are important for our health. Your child’s microbiome is at an important time in its development so it’s important to get the balance of good and bad bacteria right in early life!
Baby probiotics are suitable for babies from birth. Look for the age suitability on the front of pack. Probiotics for babies help reinforce or restore the friendly bacteria in your baby’s digestive tract to support their digestive health.
The most common types of probiotics are different strains of these two groups:
What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are a source of non-digestible fibre that serve as food for beneficial bacteria in the gut. They can help promote baby gut health by selectively stimulating the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria. Prebiotics act as a fuel source for these bacteria, allowing them to thrive and maintain a healthy balance in the gut microbiome. Breast milk is an excellent natural prebiotic food, as it contains Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs). By supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria, HMOs help support the growing immune system, and contribute to overall gut health in babies. When solid foods are introduced around 6 months of age, introducing prebiotic-rich foods or using prebiotic supplements may help support a healthy gut microbiome in infants.
Probiotic & Prebiotic Foods to Improve Baby Gut Health
- Breast milk – nature’s superfood! Breastfeeding delivers good bacteria to your baby’s gut directly from your breast milk, and by feeding off the breast (skin contact). Breast milk also contains Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs) – unique types of prebiotic food that the good bacteria prefer. So breast milk not only supplies your little one with healthy bacteria, it also provides the food to feed them as well!
- Some toddler milk drinks (suitable from 1 year) contain different types of probiotics. Some contain plant-based prebiotics.
- Dairy products such as yoghurt (live-cultured) or kefir contain various strains of probiotics.
- Prebiotic foods includes grains (oats, barley), fresh fruits (such as bananas, kiwi fruit, apples) and vegetables (such as artichoke, onion and garlic).
- Supplements designed for babies and young children, in liquid, powder or chewable form.
Check the ingredient list of products and ask your health professional for advice. No matter what form you choose, probiotics need to be consumed regularly to confer a health benefit.
Choosing the right probiotic for your child
- Talk to your healthcare professional - Not all probiotics have the same benefits, so talk to your healthcare professional to find the one that meets your baby’s needs.
- Consider the age of your child - Breast milk or infant formula should be the sole source of nutrition for infants until around 6 months of age. If your child is under 6 months of age, choose a probiotic or prebiotic supplement that is designed for babies from birth. Solid or complementary food sources of probiotics are not suitable until around 6 months of age.
Storing your probiotics
Many probiotic supplements don’t need to be kept refrigerated, but exposure to high temperatures and humidity may affect their success.
Don’t add probiotic powders or capsule contents to very hot foods or beverages, as the heat may destroy the live bacteria.
Always follow manufacturer’s instructions for storage of probiotic product.