Are Probiotics Safe For Babies?   

Are Probiotics Safe For Babies?

Close up of a father's hands preparing spoon with probiotic drops medicine for his baby

April 27, 2023

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Beth Loveridge Lenza, D.O.

Probiotics have become popular with adults for their health benefits. They are live bacteria that support digestive health, mostly interacting with the immune system and the nerves that control the gut.

Contrary to the negative connotations often associated with bacteria, our body naturally contains both good and bad bacteria.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are a mixture of live good bacteria and/or yeasts that naturally live in your body. You maintain a constant supply of both good and bad bacteria in your body. When you are fighting an infection, it means that bad bacteria has taken over and thrown you off balance. 

Bacteria can be found in many parts of the body, including:

  • Gut
  • Skin
  • Vagina 
  • Mouth

Probiotics can aid digestion, prevent bad bacteria from causing illness by maintaining a balance, support cell function, and produce vitamins while breaking down and absorbing medicine.

What can probiotics do for me?

When you lose good bacteria, such as after taking antibiotics, probiotics can be supplements and help to create more balance with the bad bacteria in your body due to your illness. Probiotics may also help to improve the symptoms of certain health conditions, such as:

  • Diarrhea 
  • Constipation
  • Eczema 
  • Inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Asthma attacks
  • Food allergies
  • Lactose intolerance 
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Urinary tract infections or yeast infections
  • Gum disease, tooth decay
  • Sepsis (specifically in infants)

Adults can consume probiotics through fermented foods like sauerkraut and yogurt, as well as drinks like kombucha. Dietary supplements are also an option. A balanced microbiome and good gut health can promote wellness.   

Can probiotics benefit my child or baby?

Unfortunately, there is no consensus on this question yet and more research is needed. But the research conducted so far points in a positive direction: probiotics may aid in treating or reducing the effects of certain conditions that specifically affect infants. 

Infants often have conditions that affect their gastrointestinal system, such as colic and acid reflux. These conditions can be debilitating and exhausting for both parents and infants. Probiotics may offer some relief from these conditions due to their nature of improving digestive health. If your baby has colic or acid reflux, adding probiotics to their diet may lead to less discomfort for your baby and more sleep for both you and your child. 

Should I give my baby probiotics?

Good bacteria from probiotics can be naturally found in breast milk and baby formula. It is preferred to hold off on probiotic supplements until your baby is older than six months old. 

Pediatric gastroenterologist and division chief at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital, Beth Loveridge-Lenza, D.O. says, “Although probiotics can have many health benefits, the need for them varies depending on your baby’s current health and health history. If there are nutrients that we think your baby needs to be supplemented for, we can work out a plan that works best to suit your baby’s needs.”

Probiotics are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), nor prescribed by a doctor. In general, probiotics have very few negative side effects for healthy adults and children. If your baby was born prematurely, has a weakened immune system or other health problems, they are more at risk for adverse reactions to probiotics, such as developing an infection. 

If you are considering probiotics for your baby, discuss with a health care provider before use and remain cautious. 

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.  

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