3 questions to learn if your baby's gut is healthy.
By: Dr. Tanya Altmann MD
Having a gut microbiome that is filled with good bacteria is important in the early stages of life to promote the development of a healthy immune system, proper digestion, and more. If a baby’s gut microbiome is filled with bad bacteria, this often leads to gas, colic, diaper rash, and eczema and even long term health issues like allergies, obesity, and diabetes.
That’s why many parents turn to probiotics to increase the abundance of good bacteria in baby’s gut. However, not all probiotics are created equal.
To help parents navigate the hundreds of options out there, these are my tips for what to specifically look for, and what isn’t so important when choosing a probiotic for your baby:
1. Strain Matters
The most important factor to look for when choosing a probiotic is the specific name and strain of bacteria. For infants, research has proven that B. infantis is the most important good gut bacteria for babies, but nine out of 10 babies born today no longer have it due to generations of antibiotic use and C-section delivery. B. infantis is unique in that it’s the only bacteria that can convert special carbohydrates found in breastmilk, called Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs), into important nutrients for baby. This process enables B. infantis to outcompete bad gut bacteria and create a protective gut microbiome for baby, which ultimately guides the development of immune health during the critical first few months of life. The specific strain of B. infants in Evivo, EVC001, is widely studied and is the only B. infantis strain clinically proven to reduce harmful bacteria by 80%, and provides benefits to baby now and in the future.
2. High CFU or Multi-strain Probiotics Aren’t Always Best
It’s a common misconception that a higher CFU (number of colony-forming units of good bacteria), or a blend of multiple strains, equals a more effective probiotic, but this simply isn’t true. A probiotic for your baby must contain the specific strain that has been clinically shown to colonize the infant gut and provide benefit to your baby. B. infantis is the only gut bacteria that grows in the presence of breastmilk, and creates a protective environment in baby’s gut during the first 6 months of life.
3. Look for a Refrigerated Option
Probiotics for babies must contain live bacteria, which is why they need to be kept cold as the bacteria is very sensitive to heat. Look for options that, when purchased, are cold shipped to your door and make sure you put them immediately in the refrigerator or freezer as directed.
4. Look for a Probiotic That’s Transparent About Their Strain & Science
Before giving a probiotic to your baby, look for brands that have published their clinical safety and efficacy data in peer-reviewed scientific journals. This is important to ensure that what you are giving your baby is safe and effective. It takes time and effort to test products and generate the type of data needed for scientific journals, so this can be an effective way to weed-out options that aren’t backed by science. If you’re having trouble finding a brand backed by important research and data, ask your pediatrician for recommendations.
Choosing the right probiotic for your baby may seem overwhelming, but by prioritizing what’s most important: strain, transparency, quality and live bacteria, you will be able to find the right one. As always, talk to your own pediatrician if you have questions about the benefits of probiotics and the gut health of your baby.
Dr. Tanya Altmann is a leading pediatrician and best-selling author. Her expertise lies in baby nutrition and gut health, but she also speaks to everyday parenting issues. Altmann is the author of What to Feed Your Baby and Baby and Toddler Basics, as well as editor-in-chief of the American Academy of Pediatrics' parenting books, The Wonder Years and Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. Dr. Tanya has made numerous media appearances and contributions over the years, but she would say her most important role is being a mom to her amazing three boys.
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