Healthy Gut Flora in Babies

Here’s an interesting article I found yesterday in the NY Times which reports on a recent study published in the CMAJ about healthy gut flora in babies. This report suggests that babies born vaginally and babies who are breast feed may have healthier gut flora than babies born via C-section and fed only formula. Healthy gut flora – which consists of many different types of probiotics and prebiotics- are essential for a strong immune and healthy digestive system. Several previous studies have linked healthy gut flora to regular bowel movements, healthy digestion, strong immune system and better mood. An imbalance in gut microbes – or, “Dysbiosis” – can contribute to inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, childhood obesity, eczema and allergies.

Babies are inoculated with healthy bacteria when they pass through the vaginal canal during labor. The vagina is a prime location for probiotics like Lactobacillus acidophilus. Probiotics are also passed through the mother’s breast milk. In order to optimize baby exposure to these healthy bugs, mothers should supplement with probiotics during pregnancy and breast feeding. For babies that need to be born via C-section – or when mothers have difficulty with breastfeeding or baby does not have access to breastmilk – babies can  supplement with probiotics. There are several infant probiotic formulas that can be given to support healthy gut development in the newborn.