Many new parents know this issue: their baby cries a lot while they try to comfort them – to no avail. Nurses and Doctors will find a fancy word to describe the problem: your baby is colicky – which means… it cries a lot. “Thanks”, you may think, “but that doesn’t help us one bit!”. After being confronted with the problem myself I did some research and found out that the main issue was that my baby had trouble to get rid of gas. After researching the problem I found 3 solutions which improved my child’s (and my) quality of life:
- Tummy massages for baby
- Probiotics for babies
- Special catheters (tubes)
While tummy massages and catheters do help in many cases, the real game-changer for my son was probiotics. It looks like he is not alone, as a study from 2011 shows. Since the probiotics helped most in my son’s case, I will first write about them and I’ll write other posts about tummy massages and special catheters.
Quick Post Guide
- 1 What are probiotics?
- 2 Are probiotics safe for your baby?
- 3 Why should you give probiotics to your infant?
- 4 Best probiotics for babies
- 5 Conclusion: which probiotics should I buy for my baby?
What are probiotics?
Before you give probiotics to your baby, you should know what they are. The official definition of probiotics cited by the World Health Organization in a report from 2001 (pdf) is “food with added live microbes which confer heath effects on the host”.
That’s a lot of big words for a very simple thing! In layman terms they are basically good bacteria which we all need for a well-functioning gut. As you may know, all human bodies need bacteria to help digestion for example. Most healthy adults have a wide range of bacteria in their guts but babies still need to build them up. They received some in the womb from the placenta and during the birth (via the birth canal or the skin in case of a ceasarian), but that is only what they need to start producing more bacteria. When the baby is born, their body has to start working on its own and it is normal for it to take some time. Probiotics as a dietary supplement are there to jump-start the whole process and relieve the pain of digestion for your baby.
Are probiotics safe for your baby?
The short answer is: yes! As long as you give them probiotics which are specifically designed for babies, there are no risk in testing them. I understand that the thought of giving your kid live organisms to eat might be off-putting at first… but you have to remember that we wouldn’t be able to survive without bacteria. Think of them as small organisms inside your body doing all the work that you couldn’t do on your own! These bacteria are found in all foods (especially in breast milk or yoghurt) so they are nothing to be afraid of. A good way to measure someone’s healthiness is actually to measure the variety of bacteria that they have in their gut.
Of course we are all different and react to different foods differently, which is why you should always monitor your baby. If he/she still has a lot of trouble to digest after two weeks of using the same probiotics, it might be time to test another one. You will usually see the effects probiotics after a couple of days, but it is normal for improvements to come only after a full week. It is especially true for babies who don’t have a way to tell you “I feel kind of better but the problem is not fully solved yet”.
In a nutshell: don’t be afraid to test probiotics to improve your baby’s digestion… but give them time to do their thing! Your kid won’t thank you just yet but he/she will feel better soon.
Why should you give probiotics to your infant?
Probiotics are used for a variety of reasons, including the following:
- Preemptively: it is well-known that most babies have digestive issues. Some will poop too rarely, some will have stomach pain because of all the gas held up there… each baby is different, but most of them have gut problems. While you sometimes don’t even notice it, you might decide to circumvent the problem altogether and give your baby probiotics very early in his life. It will save both you and your baby a lot of effort and sleep!
- Babies who have lots of gas which makes them cry: it is never to late to start giving probiotics! If you didn’t give any probiotics preemptively to your baby, he can still benefit from them. I myself only started researching probiotics after I noticed that my son had too much gas in his tummy. The digestion process can be very stressful and painful for a baby, which is why you shouldn’t hesitate to help him in any way you can.
- Formula-fed babies especially benefit from probiotics. Powder milk has made tremendous progress in the last decades but it hasn’t reached the level of breast milk yet. One of the big differences between a breastfed baby and a formula-fed baby is the amount of good bacteria they have in their gut, as a study from 2016 showed. The most surprising result of that study is that babies who are both breastfed and formula-fed have a very similar gut composition to babies who are exclusively formula-fed. To sum it up: if your baby isn’t exclusively breastfed, it is a good idea to consider probiotics!
- Babies born via c-section missed out on all the bacteria that they would otherwise have picked up in the birth canal. The study I mentioned above also noticed a difference between babies who where delivered vaginally and those who were born via cesarean. Many babies get their bacteria levels back up via breastfeeding but it makes sense to consider giving them probiotics to help them in this task.
- Babies who were given antibiotics: this use case makes a lot of sense once you read about it. Some babies need antibiotics at birth or in the following weeks if they somehow caught an infection. Antibiotics are great at killing all the bacteria which make your baby sick, but they also generate collateral damage. They kill bacteria which we would rather keep alive and well in our gut! Giving probiotics to babies who are currently taking antibiotics or who took them earlier in their life is very often a great answer to that issue.
Best probiotics for babies
If you kept reading this long, congratulations! I assume you are now eager to find the best products which can help your baby. Each individual is different but I tried to compile a list of the 5 most efficient probiotics with their pros and cons. I hope you’ll find the perfect product for your baby’s needs!
Mommy’s Bliss is a company founded by a nurse and lactaction consultant who wanted to help the many babies she’s seen suffer from colic. Their probiotic drops are the most sold in America for good reasons! Their motto is “for moms, by moms”. These probiotics are focused on one specific bacteria strain which is probably the most influencial in reducing infand gas.
Culturelle is a well-known brand by many parents, very often because it has been recommended by their pediatrician! They have probiotics for all children, from newborn to school-aged children. These probiotics include 2 different bacteria strains as well as Vitamin D! They might be the most complete probiotics out there.
Biogaia is one of the oldest probiotics company. They did extensive research on probiotics in North and South-America which led them to create these probiotics which include the bacteria strain Lactobacillus reuteri. This strain is naturally found in all healthy mammal and birds.
Evivo created their probiotic powder once their research showed that 9 out of 10 babies miss one important kind of bacteria in their gut: B. infantis. These probiotics have hardcore fans who noticed great improvement in their babies’ health! It is yet a different strain but it has done miracles for some babies.
Nutrivene products are manufactured in pharmaceutical facilities in the USA. While they do not specialize in probiotics for babies, they have a long experience with all kind of food supplements for kids and adults alike. These relatively cheap probiotics are proof that they know what they do!
Conclusion: which probiotics should I buy for my baby?
It depends! I wish I could answer the question in a straightforward way, but all people are different. Some babies will need a specific strain of bacteria, others need probiotics which include a wide range of strains . My advice would be to start with probiotics which don’t have too many different bacteria strains, such as BioGaia's drops with Vitamin D. If you don’t notice improvements after 2 weeks, you’ll know that these were not the strains that your baby needs! You can then come back to this article and choose a different brand of probiotics from the list above.
Each experience is different: some reviews of the same product couldn’t contradict each other more. From “These drops don’t help at all – 1 star!” to “These probiotics have been a life saver – I wish I could give a 6th star!“, the reviews have a large spectrum. The reason of it is that some brands work wonderfully for some kids and not at all for others.
All I can tell you is that the probiotics which relieved my son is BioGaia’s drops, which you can find on Amazon.
I wish you good luck in the quest for the perfect probiotics – may your baby stay healthy!
Last update on 2019-11-15 / Affiliate links / Images & Stars from Amazon Product Advertising API