the parent’s guide to probiotics

From the belly bliss experts.

What are probiotics?

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that make it easier for your little one to digest their food, absorb vitamins and develop strong intestinal and immune systems.

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When we think of bacteria, we usually think of germs that cause diseases. But even the littlest human’s body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called “friendly” bacteria because they’re the good guys in the gut working hard to keep it healthy.

But it’s easy for a child’s system to get out of balance, and for the “bad” bacteria in the gut (or the microbiome, to be precise) to start causing problems big and small: upset stomach, constipation, diarrhea, pesky skin conditions and more.

That’s where probiotics come in. Adding probiotic supplements or foods to a little one’s routine can help rebalance their systems and set them up for a lifetime of good health.

Probiotics can be especially helpful for babies because their digestive systems are still developing.

In fact, probiotics can be especially helpful for babies because their digestive systems are still developing, making it difficult for them to break down food. And if a baby is born by C-section, they’re even more important because she’ll miss picking up the helpful bacteria from mom’s birth canal.

Probiotic foods & supplements

The most common way to get more of the good bacteria into your child’s system is by giving them a probiotic supplement or by adding small bits of probiotic foods to their everyday diet; yogurt is probably the most kid-friendly probiotic food.

Probiotic supplements are generally considered safe, but of course, as with any supplement, make sure you talk to your pediatrician about what’s right for your child before you start.

Wait, what’s the microbiome again?

Wait, what’s the microbiome again?

The microbiome is the more technical name for gut flora, and scientists are now studying the microbiome with the idea that it’s actually responsible for many of the functions that keep us healthy.

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Unlike your DNA, which is fixed at conception, the microbiome is developed throughout infancy and early childhood and is heavily influenced by the diet, environment and lifestyle (even a little kid’s lifestyle!).

By the time your child reaches school age, the makeup of their microbiome will be set and be with them for decades (or even the rest of their lives). The good news is there are things you can do starting at day one to build a healthy microbiome in your child. That’s where probiotics come in.

How can probiotics help my little one?

How can probiotics help my little one?

Babies and kids alike can take probiotics to restore friendly gut flora to support good health now and for years to come.

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In the here and now, probiotics may help relieve or prevent a wide variety of common digestive issues in little ones:

  • Occasional constipation
  • Occasional diarrhea
  • Gas

Picking the right probiotic

There are lots of different strains of probiotics, each with different ways of working on the microbiome, so it’s important to choose what’s right for your young one.

Picking the right probiotic
Many adult probiotics are broad-spectrum or multi-probiotics made with several different strains. For children, current research by the Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition association shows that single strain—in particular, the Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG) strain—is most effective for intestinal and other issues.
Once you start looking at probiotics, you’ll start seeing some kind of staggering numbers: 5 billion, 10 billion, 50 billion. These numbers refer to the cell count/CFU—or “colony forming units”—count, which quantifies how many bacteria are alive and active. For daily maintenance for babies and kids, a lower cell count is fine—look for something between 1 and 5 billion CFUs.
The effectiveness of a probiotic can vary greatly depending on how it’s delivered. That’s because as a probiotic makes its way through the GI tract and to the gut, it meets a powerful foe: stomach acid. This acid can destroy the bacteria before it gets to where it needs to be to work. Look for a probiotic with a protective layer for the most effective product possible.

How to make your child’s gut happier with probiotics

Research shows that a daily probiotic can work wonders for little ones’ immune and digestive systems. As mentioned above, you’ll want to discuss any supplementation with your pediatrician, but if you’ve decided it’s right for your child, here’s how to make the most of your probiotic.

How to make your child’s gut happier with probiotics
  • Use a single strain probiotic; such as the Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG strain
  • Look for a cell count of 1 billion
  • Safe to use from day one
  • A drop delivery system is easiest for baby
  • Give it when you’re nursing or giving a bottle in the morning
  • For general maintenance and immune building, give it daily for maximum, sustained effectiveness
  • Use a single strain probiotic; such as the Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG strain
  • Look for a CFU count of 5 billion
  • Mix-in powders are good for kids of all ages
  • Mix into yogurt or oatmeal in the morning
  • For general maintenance and immune building, give it daily for maximum, sustained effectiveness

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