Baby Probiotics: What Do I Need To Know?

Live probiotics are naturally found in mom's breastmilk (1). While there are many common strains of probiotics found in breastmilk, it is amazing to discover that not every strain is found in every breast milk sample. In other words, your breastmilk will have a different probiotic composition than your best friend's breast milk.


Probiotics are a popular health trend these days, but they have been used for thousands of years. Foods like yogurts, kombucha, and kimchi naturally have probiotics.Probiotics are actually alive. They are live microorganisms (often bacteria or yeast) that offer a benefit to the host…in this case, your baby!  So, when you are guzzling that kombucha, you are actually drinking live bacteria. Those bacteria should colonize your gut (essentially set up their home in your gut) and start doing things that make you healthier in some way. Certain probiotics can offer different health benefits. Some strains help support a healthy immune system, while others help keep bowel movements regular (among other roles). So, if you are choosing a probiotic supplement, you want to choose your strain wisely.Factors that can affect a baby's microbiota (composition of microorganisms in baby's gut) include:
  • Baby born via c-section vs. vaginal birth (babies born via c-section have fewer beneficial probiotics vs. babies born vaginally) (2)
  • Formula feeding vs. breastfeeding (breastfed babies have more biodiversity in their gut) (3)
  • Antibiotic exposure (4)
While your breastmilk contains live probiotics, you may not be providing certain strains in adequate amounts. That is where supplementation for babies comes in. As of now, there is no major documented risk of supplementing baby with probiotics.


Certain probiotic strains play certain roles. While most probiotics are important for different reasons, the three strains that parents should focus on are Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus reuteri, and Bifidobacterium infantis.

Lactobacillus rhamnosus

Lactobacillus rhamnosus is one of the most commonly used probiotics. Some benefits of ensuring baby is getting enough lactobacillus rhamnosus:
  • Helps strengthen the immune system in early infancy to help reduce the risk of developing an allergic manifestation like atopic dermatitis (eczema). (5)
  • Promotes digestive health (6)
  • May reduce the incidence of ADHD and /or Asperger's Syndrome. (7)
  • May reduce duration of diarrhea if baby is exposed to rotavirus or is receiving antibiotics (8, 9)
  • May reduce the chances of baby developing diaper rash by decreasing the pH of baby's “number twos”

Lactobacillus reuteri

Lactobacillus reuteri is another probiotic that has been studied in infants. The most noteworthy studies suggest that providing colicky babies with adequate lactobacillus reuteri daily for at least a week may reduce crying time by 50% (10)! Not every mother has lactobacillus reuteri present in her breastmilk, so supplementation may be beneficial-specifically if mom wants to reduce the risk of her baby presenting with symptoms of colic (and what parent doesn't want to reduce the risk of colicky symptoms?!?!).Other roles lactobacillus reuteri may have in babies according to the data include:
  • May reduce spit-up frequency in babies (11, 12)
  • With rehydration therapy, may help treat acute diarrhea frequency and duration in some studies. This is good to keep in mind if baby is being provided with antibiotics. (13, 14)

Bifidobacterium infantis.

The amount of Bifidobacterium infantis has been nearly eliminated in infants born in industrialized countries like the USA and Canada (15). It is a key probiotic that is needed to help keep baby's microbiota balanced and healthy. Ensuring baby's gut is colonized with this important probiotic is key for reducing any risks that may lie ahead.This strain of probiotics may help manage inflammation in baby's gut and helps balance the microbiota. Babies who are provided with bifidobacterium infantis have been shown to have a lower gut pH, which may result in an environment that is not “friendly” to some harmful bacteria like e.coli. In other words, helping keep baby's gut at a lower pH by ensuring she is getting in adequate amounts of Bifidobacterium infantis consistently may ward away the harmful effects of e.coli and other harmful bacteria. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in premature infants. (16, 17, 18)


Supplying babies with probiotics appears to be a safe option according to the medical literature. Of course, you do want to get the green-light from your health care provider before you give your baby supplemental probiotics (or any supplement for that matter). Some tips to keep in mind include:Make sure the probiotic is never in an environment that exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit.Probiotics cannot survive in this temperature and will not be alive to serve their purpose if you feed them to baby after they have been exposed to extreme heat.If your baby is being provided with antibiotics, provide the probiotic at a time as far away from the antibiotic administration as possible. The antibiotics may kill the probiotics along with the harmful bacteria it is trying to eliminate (and possibly help manage any antibiotic-induced diarrhea). If you are giving your baby an antibiotic dose in the morning and at nighttime, give her probiotics mid-day.


While breastmilk is the ideal source of nutrition for baby and is the recommended way to feed baby according to expert panels like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization, mom's breastmilk may not contain the exact quantities of every beneficial strain of probiotic that may offer baby the host of benefits that data suggests they offer. Choosing to provide baby with additional supplementation of Bifidobacterium infantis, lactobacillus reuteri, and lactobacillus rhamnosus would ensure baby's gut is being fueled with the strains of beneficial bacteria that has been shown to support baby's health in tons of ways according to research. While you can choose to supplement baby with each strain individually, you can also choose a supplement that contains all three strains. Combining the strains with a Vitamin D supplement is a simple and healthy solution for busy moms who are breastfeeding their baby and want to supply her with a perfect supplementation solution to support baby's health.


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