Should You Give Your Baby Probiotics?
When I mentioned to our pediatrician that my breastfed daughter was having some strange issues with her poop (read: super smelly), he suggested that we start giving her probiotics.
I was surprised because she was only a few months old at the time, but he assured me that the research coming out on probiotics use in infants was especially promising, even citing that some doctors believed that probiotic use could really help babies who had colic.
Although I didn't end up taking our doctor's advice that day, I did pick up some probiotics this week for my now 5-month-old after she went through a dose of antibiotics for an ear infection. The antibiotics have given her diarrhea, a common side effect, and I'm hoping the probiotics will help balance out her system again.
So are probiotics helpful for babies like our doctor said? It turns out, as is the case with much of medicine, the answer is maybe. One study found that probiotics helped reduce the symptom of colic in babies while another found no significant difference.
So in other words, more research is needed, and there were will probably never be a “one size fits all” probiotic for every baby, because every person's individual bacterial system is unique. For us, probiotics made sense to introduce to our baby when we followed the doctor's suggestion to give antibiotics for her ear infection. I'm pretty cautious about using antibiotics in general, so the probiotics helped ease my mind.
But while probiotics can be “all natural,” it's important to keep in mind that “all natural” does not equal “totally safe.” Lots of things in nature, including the worlds' most deadly bacteria and viruses are “all natural,” so don't get fooled into buying a product simply based on how “natural” it is.
Just a few months ago, a premature baby, who was treated with a probiotic supplement while in the hospital, died as a result of the probiotics being tainted with the mold Rhizopus oryzae. The probiotic, ABC Dophilus Powder, manufactured by Solgar in Leonia, N.J, has since been recalled by the FDA, but the organization still cautions parents to be aware that “natural” health supplements, such as probiotics and even vitamins, are not regulated and thus have more risk for being contaminated.
It's scary because you have to realize that probiotics are nothing more than bacteria. They are “good” bacteria — the kind that we need to accomplish important things like digestion — but in our germaphobic world, I think we can lose sight of the reality of what we are putting into our bodies with fancy words and labels. “Probiotics” are bacteria, plain and simple.
There is much to be learned about the role of how bacteria works in our body, and this interesting article even points out that, in the grand scheme of things, our bodies are actually comprised of more bacteria than human cells, meaning we are literally made up of more germs than we are of human. Something to chew on?
What do you think? Would you give your baby probiotics?