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Probiotics and Breastfeeding
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Probiotics and Breastfeeding

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From our naturopath:

With so many probiotics on the market targeting infants, many mothers wonder if they should be using a probiotic.

If you are exclusively breastfeeding your baby and the baby is under 6 months of age - a probiotic is not necessarily needed nor beneficial.
Given the extraordinary benefits of breast milk, when making your decision about whether to use a probiotic, it helps to be aware of the following.
  • Breastmilk is the ultimate gardener and restorer for the infant gut - seeding (with between 100-600 different species - a true probiotic), feeding (selectively feeding these bacteria with its own prebiotics like HMOs) and weeding (selectively suppressing harmful bacteria).
  • All these things make breastmilk the best medicine to restore the gut following antibiotic use.
  • No probiotic contains just bacteria - they all contain some kind of additive or filler - which cause no reaction in older children but can in young babies.
  • In a very young baby, the breast is really all that should be going into his/her mouth.
  • If you have concerns, seek the advice of a qualified health practitioner.
  • If a probiotic is deemed necessary, where possible it should be given via the mother and only use strains that are proven to be transferred through breastmilk to the baby.
  • Nourishing the mother’s microbiome via dietary improvements and PREbiotic supplementation will help seed the infant gut with a greater array of beneficial microbes too.  This is a powerful tool to help your baby’s health.
Colic and Your Baby
 
  • L reuteri DSM 17938 (Biogaia Probiotic Drops for infant colic).  Dose 5 drops once a day. This is one case where the probiotic is given directly to the baby, and not via the mother’s breastmilk.
  • This probiotic has had a number of trials done to see firstly if it is safe for babies under 3 months and also if it really works to ease colic and crying in breastfed babies.
  • A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2017 found it to be safe in newborns with colic.
  • Other studies have had conflicting results about whether it works or not, but it is certainly worth trying because some exclusively breast fed babies with colic will get relief.  Not all babies, but enough to give it a try if you have tried everything else recommended by your doctor or lactation specialist.
When Else is Your Baby Likely to Benefit from a Probiotic
 
  • When you have a strong family history of allergies, eczema and/or asthma and behavioural issues.
  • Supplementing the mother from the third trimester and through breastfeeding with the following therapeutic strain combination:  Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG) 10 billion cfu, Bifidobacterium animals spp lactis (BB-12) 5 billion cfu, Bifidobacterium breve (M-16v) 5 billion cfu and Bifidobacterium longum (BB536) 5 billion cfu does have good evidence to show it reduces allergy and eczema in the baby, and assists in the prevention of behavioural complaints in later childhood.
  • The mother takes this probiotic twice a day from the third trimester and throughout breastfeeding.
  • Again - nourishing and supporting the mother’s gut microbiome via diet and prebiotics is highly beneficial.
If Your Baby is Not Exclusively Breast Fed or is Formula Fed
 
  • L Reuteri probiotic does not seem to be as effective for colic.
  • Check any probiotic you use has evidence of safety and effectiveness in infants.
  • Talk to a qualified practitioner before giving your infant a probiotic.
Amanda Hunter ND
Naturopath/Medical Herbalist
Microbiome Analysis