As a new parent, you probably don’t remember what you ate for breakfast yesterday or where you left your cellphone, but when it comes to your baby’s poop, you can likely describe each bowel movement in full detail.
It is not uncommon for parents to be concerned about if their baby is pooping enough, how much gas is too much and if what they are feeding their baby is helping or harming their baby’s digestive tract.
Recently, probiotics have gained huge popularity when it comes to baby’s digestion and gut health. You may be asking yourself – does my baby need these too? Are they safe?
Our digestive tract is lined with up to 100 trillion bacteria that are essential for many different functions in our body. They allow us to digest, absorb and use the nutrients from our foods and they support a healthy immune system by blocking out the bad bacteria, viruses and toxins. It is logical to assume that if we disrupt these good bacteria that digestive issues can occur, such as gas, reflux, diarrhea and constipation. However, we also see full body changes in people who have poor gut flora, including increased rates of asthma and allergies, decreased immune function, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, obesity, mood disorders, allergies, skin conditions such as eczema, autoimmune disease and more.
Our babies are born with little to no bacteria in their gut. From birth until around age 2, their digestive systems mature as they build up several different strains of bacteria.
Signs Your Baby May Need Support
Caesarean birth: One of the main ways babies initially build good bacteria is by being exposed to mom’s vaginal flora. Babies who are born through a cesarean birth aren’t exposed to this bacteria, so it is important to use strategies to build up their gut flora after birth.
Formula fed: Breastfeeding passes antibodies and good bacteria from mom to baby, so formula fed babies often need some support through probiotics. Having the right bacteria will also help baby to absorb and use the nutrients in formula that are a bit harder to breakdown than those in breast milk.
Antibiotic use: Antibiotics are helpful to kill off bad bacteria that are causing an infection, but they also kill off some of our good bacteria as well. It’s important to restore these bacteria as soon as possible after beginning antibiotics.
Not pooping daily: A large portion of an infant’s stool is made up of bacteria. If baby isn’t pooping at least once per day (ideally 3 times or more!) then this may be a sign they have poor gut flora.
Allergies, Asthma or Eczema: All of these are early warning signs that your baby likely is lacking in good bacteria and could use some support.
Food reactions: Milk protein allergy is a common reaction, but any response to foods (ex. diarrhea, constipation, mucus in stool) may be a warning sign of poor gut bacteria.
Strategies for Building Good Bacteria
Skin to skin: Exposes baby to the healthy bacteria on mom and dad’s skin
Breastfeeding: Passes good bacteria from mom to baby. Even small amounts, particularly of colostrum, can be helpful.
Introducing solids at 6 months: Ensures baby has time to develop their gut bacteria and digestive tract before starting foods.
Limiting allergenic foods: Often babies can react to the cow’s milk protein, so choosing a formula that is gentle on baby’s tummy is ideal. Breastfed babies may also react to cow’s milk protein in mom’s diet if she has poor gut bacteria herself.
Healthy diet: A whole foods, high fiber, low refined sugar diet is important for mom to build her own healthy bacteria to pass to baby. As we start solids, incorporating a wholesome diet allows the good bacteria to grow and populate the gut.
Low stress: Though your baby likely isn’t stressed this early in their life, stress does deplete our gut bacteria. This is important as your little one gets older and for parents to keep their own digestive system strong.
Minimize antibiotic use: There are lots of natural ways to support your little one’s immune system before antibiotics until needed.
Probiotics: Supplementing baby and/or mom with a good quality probiotic is something you may want to consideration if you suspect your little one may need some extra support. Always speak with your Naturopathic Doctor to know which type is best for your baby!