The research suggests that probiotic supplementation could be a primary way to support infant health and prevent future disease. To find out where they could be helpful, I’ve checked out the scientific literature.
Your baby may have distinct benefits from probiotic supplementation. Her intestinal microflora is still being established, unlike yours. This means that introduced species may actually be able to establish a permanent niche in her intestinal tract. Furthermore, her immune system is still being developed. There is now strong evidence that shows cross talk between the immune system and the microflora. These initial communications can determine her health in the future.
Published studies suggest that infant probiotics could have the following short-term benefits:
Why colic occurs is unknown. One hypothesis that is gaining momentum is an abnormal composition of intestinal bacteria. One study treated 90 breastfed infants with a Lactobacillus reuteri strain. Crying was reduced within seven days of treatment, and the response rate was almost 100%. The second study with a related strain also showed improvements. Others trials using formula with added beneficial bacteria found some success with Bifidobacterium lactis combined with Streptococcus thermophilus.
Reducing Respiratory Infections
Probiotics may help prevent the common cold and ear infections. L. rhamnosus GG and B. lactis Bb-12 given daily prevented ear and respiratory infections. In a study using infants older than four months, L. salivarius combined with formula was also promising. Another study using prebiotics, which promote good bacteria, reduced the frequency of colds but not ear infections.
In a large Norwegian study, scientists investigated the development of several diseases in 40,614 children. Children that had mothers that consumed probiotic milk during pregnancy and were also given probiotics once they were born had less eczema. In a recent review examining eczema prevention in infants, it was suggested that the most optimal method to prevent allergy in babies is to provide probiotics during pregnancy and give them to the baby after birth. Lactobacillus rhamnosus strains were the best candidates for eczema prevention.
Prevention of Diarrhea
In young infants, viral diarrhea is often a problem. Studies indicate that probiotics can provide help in the form of both prevention as well as treatment. B. lactis Bb-12 and L. rhamnosus GG are good candidates for the prevention of acute diarrhea. The literature also suggests that treatment with probiotics can shorten the duration of diarrhea by approximately one day. To shorten diarrhea in babies, the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii appears to be the best option.
While probiotic use is, in many ways, experimental, they are generally considered safe for babies. Many commercial formulas contain beneficial bacteria. Still, It’s wise to be cautious. It is important to choose only baby probiotic formulations and avoid one’s made for adults. Also, it is wise to consult your pediatrician before attempting to treat your child’s conditions with probiotics alone.