Baby probiotics are beneficial for many infants, primarily those who are fed using an infant formula. They replenish healthy flora in the digestive tract which may help to increase immune function and prevent issues like constipation, gas, and diarrhea when used correctly. Most brands are also convenient to use, and can be mixed right in with formula or baby food. Despite these benefits, baby probiotics are not right for everyone. They can be costly and hard to find, and they do not benefit all babies equally.
One of the main advantages of baby probiotics is that they help maintain an infant’s natural intestinal flora. When an infant consumes cow's milk or soy-based formula, new bacteria can be introduced into the stomach. This can affect the function of the immune system, since much of the baby’s immunities are in the digestive tract, as well as cause conditions like constipation. Giving daily doses of beneficial bacteria help keep pathogens in check.
Breastfed infants do not generally benefit from baby probiotic supplements. Natural human milk contains antibodies as well as beneficial bacteria from the mother’s own body to keep harmful bacteria at bay. There is also less risk of spreading pathogens because nothing artificial is added to the infant’s diet while he or she is exclusively breastfed. Probiotics may be beneficial if formula or solids are added or once the child is weaned.
Most baby probiotics are easy to use and they are sometimes found pre-mixed with infant formula. When added separately, they generally come in powdered form and can be added to a bottle or to baby food when the child is older. In many cases, doses are already in small packets or capsules which can be opened and mixed with food with no measuring required. Dosage instructions are found on the packaging.
Not all parents can afford the added expense of baby probiotics. Formulas which contain them are also usually more expensive than generic brands. Sometimes government assistance may be available to help cover the cost of infant feeding. Most formulas being sold now, including many generic brands, feature substances called prebiotics, which are sugars or carbohydrates which help maintain a child’s naturally occurring digestive flora.
Individually sold probiotics for infants may be hard to find for some parents. They are often not found in many conventional grocery stores, and not all people have easy access to a health food store. Most varieties can be ordered online, but this usually adds the extra cost of shipping.