Breastfeeding is not just a way to feed your baby. It is also a bonding process. Breastfeeding offers a newborn comfort and nourishment. It is instinctive. It is nature’s way of keeping your newborn healthy and happy.
But breastfeeding requires a lot of effort, time, energy, and sacrifice. What you eat can pass on to your baby through breast milk. That is why many mothers alter their diets keeping their infants in mind. Yes, you may have to stay off your favorite wine till you are breastfeeding. But it is worth the sacrifice.
The world has recently woken up to the goodness of probiotics. It has now become a part and parcel of healthy eating. But are probiotics for breastfeeding moms considered safe?
What Is Probiotic?
You can’t see them, but they are there! Your body is home to trillions of microorganisms. Now, don’t feel icky! These microscopic organisms help your body stay healthy and fit. Your gut is the place to find over 400 diverse bacterial species. These are the good bacteria that ensure a healthy digestive system.
But the junk we eat today and the chemicals we pump into our body destroys a large portion of this bacteria population. This leaves our digestive system weak. But you can repopulate your gut with these friendly bacteria by taking probiotics. A probiotic contains an abundant number of gut-friendly bacteria and can alter gut microflora.
Benefits Of Probiotics While Breastfeeding:
Your infant is born with a fragile immune system. Your breast milk is the building block that helps strengthen your newborn’s body. If you exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first six months of her life, you are already helping her future health (1).
[ Read : Foods To Avoid While Breastfeeding ]
But when you add probiotics to your diet, you give your baby something extra. Here are some of the benefits of taking probiotics while nursing:
1. Benefits For Mom:
Breastfeeding leeches away a lot of nutrients of your body. This can leave your immune system weakened. Consuming probiotic-rich foods or supplements can help strengthen your immunity. It is also a great way to regulate your fluctuating metabolism.
“Although there is no evidence that probiotic bacteria travel from mother’s gut to breast milk, latest studies suggest that probiotics in mother’s gut bacteria are transported through maternal immune cells (2)”.
[ Read: Breastfeeding Techniques ]
2. Builds Infant’s Immune System:
The gut makes up 60-70% of the body’s immune system. When you add probiotic to your diet, you pass on some good bacteria to your baby. This helps strengthen your infant’s immune system. Just breast milk does the job too. But add probiotic to it, and you help your newborn’s immune system mature faster.
3. Acid Reflux:
According to a study in 2011 published by “The European Journal of Clinical Investigation”, babies being supplemented with probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri showed a decrease in reflux symptoms in comparison to infants who were not being supplemented.
It was concluded that probiotics help the food digest more quickly leaving the stomach emptier and less likely to aggravate reflux conditions (3).
[ Read : Acid Reflux in Babies ]
Probiotics help infants with a case of chronic constipation.
An Italian study suggested that there was an improvement in the stool consistency and bowel movements of infants by regular administration of probiotics (4).
5. Prevents Eczema:
Eczema is a common problem among newborns and babies. By adding probiotic to your diet, you can ensure your baby stays free of eczema during the first two years of her life (5).
6. Diaper Rash And Diaper Yeast:
Some diaper rashes are simply yeast rash. Although probiotics cannot cure a yeast infection, they help prevent an infection as in caused by babies wearing diapers for prolonged periods. It works by changing the amount of yeast in your child’s digestive tract. Yeast probiotics have particularly been found useful in case of a diaper rash. They help children get over the infection faster than when an antibiotic is administered. Probiotic sources like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium help suppress the growth of yeast. Simply remember that the probiotic must be given an hour or two after the antibiotics to avoid interference (antibiotics may kill the good bacteria along with the bad ones).
7. Keeps Colic Away:
As per a BBC report, one in five babies are known to be affected by colic. It is believed to be related to taking in too much air while feeding. Although, babies don’t tend to be colicky after the first six months of their lives, it can be quite distressing for the baby and its parents. Babies with colic have inflamed guts and need a dose of friendly bacteria. Probiotics are known to offer benefits to fight colic. Mothers with colicky babies will do well if they include probiotic to their daily menu!
A study led by Dr. Valerie Sung at Melbourne University suggests that while there is high chance that probiotics promote relieving babies of colic, substantive evidence that probiotics, in general, help all babies overcome coilc is yet to be established (6).
Studies also suggest that babies taking the probiotic had an average crying time of 38 minutes, in comparison to 71 minutes among the infants receiving the placebo. Kids on probiotics vomited thrice a day on an average while kids on placebo vomited almost five times a day. Also, kids on probiotics had about four bowel movements a day on an average in comparison to three and a half among those taking the placebo.
Given the majority advantage, mothers with colicky babies will do well to include probiotic to their daily menu (7)!
8. Infant Thrush:
Caused by yeast, infant thrush is prevalent in infants (as an oral infection) and mother’s nipples. Although the condition appears without any known cause, it can also develop after an antibiotic use. It’s painful, tough to get rid of and can last for prolonged periods if not treated in time. Probiotics help a great deal in overcoming the condition, unlike in the case of yeast diaper rashes.
[ Read : Thrush In Infants ]
9. Produces B Vitamins:
Your baby and you both need a healthy dose of vitamin B. This group of vitamins helps in food metabolism, prevents anemia and keeps skin and nervous system healthy.
10. Other Benefits Of Probiotics:
- They absorb minerals
- Eliminate toxins
- Help in digestion and absorption of certain carbohydrates
- Act as anti-inflammatory agents
- Control a variety of disorders like Rheumatoid arthritis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Colon Cancer, Strengthened immune response, Cirrhosis of the liver, Hepatic encephalopathy, vaginal infections, diarrhea, and infections caused by H. pylori that is associated with ulcers.
- Help to control Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) in newborns or infants.
Foods Rich In Probiotics:
So you need to add probiotics in your diet. But where do you find them? You can easily buy probiotic supplements from the market. But the cheaper option will be to consume probiotic-rich foods instead. Most fermented foods contain probiotics. Here are a few food ideas for your menu:
Cheap and best! Yogurt is the best source of probiotic you can come cross. You can make yogurt at home or buy it from the market. If you are going for packaged yogurt, look for brands that come with extra probiotics like lactobacillus or acidophilus. Yogurt made of goat’s milk will be a better option.
[ Read : Superfoods For Breastfeeding Moms ]
Kefir is made of goat’s milk and fermented kefir grains. Apart from probiotics, kefir is also a rich source of antioxidants. For an added boost to your baby’s immune system, try kefir!
Sauerkraut is a rich source of gut-friendly bacteria. It can also reduce allergy symptoms and come packed with vitamins A, B.C, and E.
4. Dark Chocolate:
This will top your list, for sure! Yes, you can eat chocolate. But only the dark variety!
Our oceans are teaming with probiotic-rich foods. Microalgae like spirulina and blue-green algae can give your body a good dose of probiotics.
6. Miso Soup:
Japanese medicine makes use of miso soup frequently to treat some digestive disorders. A mix of fermented rye, beans, rice or barley, miso is a great source of probiotic for you.
Pickles are a tasty source of probiotics. You can even make some at home!
You have heard of tofu, now try tempeh! You can try a number of tempeh recipes to reap the benefits of this probiotic source.
Kimchi is spicy and great for your gut! It is made of fermented cabbage and is a staple of many a Korean menu. Not just probiotics, kimchi is also a great source of calcium, iron, and vitamins. If you are fond of spicy food, kimchi will be perfect for you!
10. Kombucha Tea:
Do you like tea? How about a cup of fermented tea? This probiotic drink has years of history behind it. But if you have candida, avoid kombucha tea.
11. Soft Cheeses:
Did you know that cheese also acts as carriers for probiotics and this way boost the immune system? Not all probiotics survive by the time they reach stomach and intestines, but certain strains of soft fermented cheese, such as Gouda, are strong enough to make their way to the gut.
12. Milk With Probiotics:
Adding acidophilus milk to your diet is a great way to get probiotics. Acidophilus milk is fermented with bacteria and is also available as ‘sweet’ acidophilus milk.
Churning plain yogurt and diluting with water results in buttermilk. Buttermilk obtained from milk that is cultured with lactic acid bacteria makes a great probiotic option.
If you think these probiotic sources are a bit too ‘exotic’, you can try buying some probiotic supplements. They come in many varieties and are easily available. And don’t worry about probiotics harming your baby. Taking probiotics while breastfeeding are perfectly safe – both for you and your little one (8).
When you feel like giving up breastfeeding, remind yourself of what you are giving your baby. You are giving her good health and comfort. That will take you through a few more sleepless nights! And don’t forget to add some probiotic to your diet to build your and your baby’s immune system and health.
Hope you are now clear about the concept of probiotics and breastfeeding. What is your favorite source of probiotics? Or do you keep it simple and pick a bottle of probiotic off the shelf? Tell us in the comments section below!
- The British Journal of Nutrition: Probiotics in human milk and probiotic supplementation in infant nutrition
- Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents: Can probiotic administration during pregnancy and the first year of life effectively reduce the risk of infections and allergic diseases in childhood?
- CBC News: Colic in babies reduced with probiotics
- Pediatrics.AAPPublications.org: Probiotics and Prebiotics in Pediatrics
- Healthline.com: Probiotic May Prevent Acid Reflux, Constipation & Colic in Infants
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