Probiotics are getting a lot of attention in the natural health field, and rightfully so! We have 10 times as much bacteria than we do cells in the body. And they do so much to keep us healthy. Most of our immune system is dependent upon probiotics. They fight off pathogens, such as anaerobic bacteria, viruses, yeast, fungus, and mold. Probiotics produce nutrients for us and even help with digestion.
Normally we’re given our first dose of probiotics by our mother during birth. This is a crucial time to gain our protective probiotics as we’re entering a world full of pathogens, including antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. How the gastrointestinal tract forms its inner ecosystem sets the stage for the baby’s health for the rest of its life.
Two major types of probiotics for newborns are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Lactobacillus break down the lactose in milk to produce energy. As the mother gets close to her due date, Lactobacillus migrates to the birth canal to inoculate the baby during birth. One month after birth and a healthy, breast-fed baby’s inner ecosystem will have up to 91% Bifidobacterium. Bifidobacteria fights inflammation, wards off infections, and keeps the inner ecosystem healthy. It reduces intestinal permeability and seals a leaky gut. Bifidobacterium should dominate your child’s digestive system in its early years, gradually declining as they age.
Unfortunately, some of us had a less than ideal start in life when it comes to getting probiotics at birth, which can create potential health problems later in life.
Here’s 4 reasons you or your baby may need probiotics:
- Premature birth
- Antibiotic use
- Use of baby formula
- Cesarean section delivery
How Premature Birth Can Increase The Need For Probiotics
When born prematurely, babies can have their microbiome disrupted during a time when they’re most vulnerable. A baby needs a good healthy dose of probiotics at birth to help fight off foreign invaders. Spending days or even weeks in a hospital or NICU can keep the baby away from sources of healthy probiotics, such as the mother. While the baby’s gut is striving for the colonization of probiotics to build the child’s immune system, they’re likely to be given antibiotics instead to prevent infection.
In the process of being taken care of, newborn children run the risk of missing out on one of the greatest things for their immune system – transfer factors from the colostrum. Colostrum is the early milk produced by a lactating mother. It can start in late pregnancy and last a few days after birth. That’s where the magic is that transfers the mother’s immune system to the baby. It’s not the antibodies in the milk that transfers immunity. It’s the transfer factors in the colostrum.
After being born, the focus should be on the baby getting colostrum. Instead, doctors focus on vaccinating. Premature birth increases the chances of doctors spending days working on the baby with interventions like antibiotics instead of the baby consuming colostrum. By not getting colostrum, the child’s immune system will be impaired. It’s even more important for a baby to supplement with probiotics if it didn’t get colostrum. Thankfully, it can receive the transfer factors later in life eating colostrum by another human or cow, if you’re cool with that.
How Antibiotic Use Affects Probiotics
Antibiotics kills both the good and bad bacteria, without discrimination. One dose of antibiotics is considered to be detrimental for life. That means one round of antibiotics will disrupt a person’s microbiome for the rest of their life, at least to some extent. A newborn baby hasn’t fully developed its immune system yet. Without probiotics it has almost no defense. Antibiotics are prescribed far too often. Sometimes doctors even prescribe antibiotics for viral infections, knowing it won’t kill viruses, just to be “safe.” It’s important for everyone to take probiotics, especially if you’ve ever had antibiotics.
How Baby Formula Minimizes Probiotics
Babies are supposed to be fed breast milk. Breast milk is full of nutrition and other things made especially for the baby. The mother literally transfers her immunity to the baby with transfer factors in the colostrum. Hopefully the baby at least got the colostrum, but baby formula is a last resort. Sometimes people choose to have a wet nurse feed the baby. A wet nurse is a lactating women who feeds someone else’s baby her breast milk. That’s a lot better than baby formula. Baby formula doesn’t have the probiotics and other goodies that mother’s milk would. Therefore, it’s especially important for a bottle-fed baby to consume probiotic-rich foods and drinks, when feasible.
Babies Born Via C-Section Delivery Need Probiotics
Cesarean sections, also known as C-sections, are one of the most common surgeries in hospitals today. Sometimes it’s done for convenience, others out of necessity. Some people plan it while others have an emergency. A lot of times the doctors cause problems that lead them to believe it’s an emergency and end up pushing for the C-section. The Business of Being Born is a great documentary about this important topic.
One of the biggest problems with a C-section is the baby doesn’t come out through the birth canal like it’s supposed to. It’s called “the birth canal” for a reason. It’s coated with probiotics ready to attach to the baby and colonize it for protection.
If you choose to have a C-section or in case you end up having one in an emergency, talk to your doctor about getting a gauze swab before birth and dabbing the baby with it head to toe immediately after birth. It’s not as effective but it’s better than nothing. Hopefully the baby is then breastfed as soon as possible. If not, it’s extremely important to touch the baby so it can get probiotics from your skin, and feed it probiotics.
Body Ecology Products products are great and their site has a lot of useful info. I get their culture starters and culture my own veggies (kraut) and make coconut kefir. I recommend reading the book The Body Ecology Diet. The author believes consuming probiotic-rich foods is superior to taking probiotic supplements because the food and drinks have a better chance of making it through the stomach and into the intestinal tract. The supplements get destroyed in the stomach more than the food and drink does. I talk about Body Ecology more on in my post about Fighting Candida & Building Immunity.
(Disclaimer: Some of the links in the post are affiliate links so I may receive a commission if you buy something through those links. However, I only link to products I believe in and I don’t link to products just for a commission. Your support helps my mission of spreading awareness and is greatly appreciated.)