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Jennifer Hirshlag

Probiotics During Infancy: What You Need to Know

Here’s how the friendly bacteria may be beneficial to you and baby.

Walk into a grocery store and you’ll spot any number of products touting probiotics, a good kind of bacteria, as an added benefit—even in the baby aisle. What started with yogurt has now spread to chocolates, gummies, sipping straws and, yes, even some baby formulas, like Gerber® Good Start®. And it’s not surprising: Specific probiotics have been shown in clinical studies to support digestive health and balance the body’s microbiota, the living organisms that inhabit our gut. But how much do you really know about probiotics? Here, we break down the basics.

What Are Probiotics?

These helpful bacteria are naturally found in your body, and were discovered over a century ago by a Russian scientist named Elie Metchnikoff, who also introduced the concept of using probiotics as a dietary supplement. Metchnikoff found that a certain Eastern European group who consumed a bacteria-rich yogurt were living longer—and enjoying a better quality of life—because of their diet. That “good” bacteria he focused in on began to be referred to as probiotics—from the Greek word pro, meaning “promoting,” and biotic, meaning “life.” Since then, research has continued to support his findings, uncovered even more benefits—primarily focused in the digestive and immune systems—and recognized that different strains can provide different health benefits.

Probiotics and Baby’s Health

Researchers are still figuring out what the proper balance of good, bad and benign bacteria is for supporting healthy newborns. But many agree striving for the best possible equilibrium of gut microbiota, and especially probiotics, may help provide digestive health benefits. Why? By the time they are one, infants possess a distinct microbial profile. By the time they are two to five, a child’s microbiota fully resembles that of an adult. Therefore, the first three years of life are critical to their microbiota and digestive health. Once established, the microbiota is relatively stable throughout adulthood. If you’re thinking about giving your baby probiotics, it’s a good idea to talk it over with your doctor and pediatrician. They’ll know the latest research to guide you.

Probiotics in Formula

Among one of the many reasons that breastfeeding is best for baby is that that breastmilk has probiotics. For moms who aren’t able to breastfeed or choose not to, formulas that include probiotics may be a good solution, according to multiple studies. Since different probiotics have different benefits, you can select a formula, like those created by Gerber® Good Start®, that focus on specific benefits. Gerber® Good Start® Gentle formulas are for healthy, term babies who are not exclusively breastfed and include the probiotic B. lactis, which is similar to the probiotics found in breastmilk. Gerber® Good Start® Soothe products are for babies experiencing colic, excessive crying and fussiness so Gerber included the probiotic L. reuteri. Studies show this probiotic may help reduce the amount of time colicky infants may cry. Gerber® Good Start® is the only brand to offer probiotics in all milk-based powder formulas.

This article is sponsored by Gerber® Good Start®. Learn more about formula options for baby here.