Why breast passes the test. Given the World Health Organization recommends new mothers exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of a newborn’s life, you won’t catch us debating that ‘breast is best’.
Breastmilk, with its 700-plus species of bacteria, proteins, fats and live cells, is an incredible substance that supports a healthy microbiome; the trillions of microbes, including bacteria, viruses and fungi, that live on and inside our bodies.
It’s rich in micronutrients, hormones and enzymes, plus different immune cells and proteins. It even features over 200 complex sugars (HMOs, or human milk oligosaccharides) that serve as prebiotics, which can provide fuel for the friendly bacteria in a baby’s gut.
Party on with prebiotics
Prebiotics, of course, provide raw fuel for the gut microbiome. Interestingly, when we talk about prebiotics, we’re most often referring to dietary fibre, which is also known to fuel beneficial bacteria.
As babies move onto mushier foods, from the age of about six months, consider a range of fibre-rich and prebiotic options. For instance, pureed prebiotic vegetables like sweetcorn or green peas, or fruits like nectarines, white peaches and watermelon. If you’re steering clear of natural sugars, oats are worth considering as both a fibre-rich and prebiotic option.
The probiotic probe
Breastmilk, tick. Fibre, tick. Prebiotics, tick. As you introduce an increasing number of prebiotic foods and high-fibre fruits, vegetables, and grains like rice, oats and wheat to your growing baby’s diet, you may start to wonder where probiotics fit in; so let’s start with a definition.
Whereas prebiotic foods provide raw fuel for the digestive system microbiome, probiotic foods contain living strains of bacteria designed to join and support the gut’s own bacteria. Two examples are fermented foods like yoghurt and kimchi.
These are particularly good sources of living micro-organisms that help to maintain the ‘good’ bacteria in a baby’s gut, supplying the microbiome with beneficial bacteria that help the existing community maintain a healthy composition.
Supplementing pre and probiotic diets
We want to make this clear: there’s no substitute for prebiotic and probiotic foods. With fruits, whole grain cereals, nuts and vegetables among the most common, they’re easy enough to source as you browse your local supermarket or convenience store.
In recent years, however, you may have noticed little jars of probiotics as you stroll the aisles or pop up on your social media!
While food is most definitely still the best source, probiotic supplements can also help support beneficial intestinal flora in the gut. If your baby doesn’t consume many probiotic foods, you therefore might like to consider probiotics as a useful tool to supplement their intake of beneficial bacteria.
As your child continues to grow, remember to support them with a healthy diet and plenty of exercise once they’re able to run around. While some extra support is no doubt worth considering, it’s these two pillars which will inevitably help to support their everyday health and wellbeing.
Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. Supplements should not replace a balanced diet. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional.
Article supplied by Life-Space Probiotics.