ProVen For Babies

probiotics-babies

Pregnancy

During pregnancy, low numbers of foetal and placental bacteria have been detected and this is considered to be part of the preparation of the baby’s immune system for the outside world.

In addition, towards the end of pregnancy, intestinal bacteria are transferred to the mother’s breast tissue during pregnancy in preparation for breast milk production.

This ‘mammary microbiota’ development has been shown to start during the last trimester (3 months) of pregnancy, reaching the highest levels at the end of this period in preparation for birth. It then remains at relatively constant levels throughout breastfeeding, declines quickly once weaning starts and disappears completely when there is no milk in the mammary gland.

Birth

Development of the infant’s gut microbiota starts immediately as the baby is born.

At birth, the GI tract of healthy newborn babies is considered to be sterile and the baby acquires his or her microbial flora (bacteria) from the environment it is born into.

For babies born vaginally, the first colonisation is from their mother’s vaginal, skin and rectal microflora. For those born via caesarean section (C- section), these bacteria come from skin and the hospital environment.

Thus, the gut bacteria of babies born via C-section is significantly different to that of babies born vaginally and this difference is increasingly being shown to have an impact on health and immunity throughout life.

For babies born by C-section, a recent study has shown that swabbing babies with maternal vaginal fluids immediately following delivery can partially restore their gut bacteria to resemble that of vaginally delivered babies. Until this procedure is common practice however, supplementing C-section born babies with probiotics can help to establish some of the Lactobacillus and Bifodobacterium strains native to the newborn baby’s gut.

Feeding

The development of the baby’s microbiome is also influenced by diet.

During the first few hours after birth, the lining of the baby’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract is permeable so that they can fully benefit from the nourishment provided by their mother’s initial milk, known as colostrum.

After these first few hours, a mucosal layer starts to form on the baby’s GI tract, to act as a barrier to prevent pathogens from crossing into the gut. This mucosal layer is where the beneficial bacteria colonise, helping to reinforce the barrier and support immunity.

This colonisation by the bacteria takes place in the first few months of life and is highly dependent on the baby’s nutrition at this time. Breast milk affects the development of the microflora by providing both the mother’s microflora and prebiotic oligosaccharides to the baby via the breast milk. Prebiotic oligosaccharides are fibres that feed the microflora and help them to colonise.

The composition of breast milk reflects the mother’s health and diet and providing both mother and baby with a probiotic supplement during breastfeeding may help to optimise the bacterial colonisation of the baby’s GI tract.

baby-gut-bacteria

If the baby is formula fed, he or she will not receive the ‘mammary microbiota’ and supplementing with research-backed probiotic bacteria will support colonisation of the baby’s GI tract with beneficial bacteria.

Weaning

The World Health Organisation recommends that babies are exclusively breast fed for the first six months of life, after which they are slowly weaned onto solid foods that help to meet their increased energy and nutrient needs.

Foods that can help to support the development of the microbiome during weaning include fruits and vegetables for prebiotics and plain yoghurt to provide some probiotic bacteria. Continuing to supplement probiotics until the baby is at least a year old can also help with this.

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