According to experts, breastfeeding your baby does more than just keep them full (so you’re not kept awake by 2 am cries) – it’s also great for your baby’s overall nourishment and comfort.
Breastfeeding is one of the best ways for mother and child to bond and keeps the baby happy and healthy. But while you’re breastfeeding, it is crucial that you pay attention to what you eat because those nutrients (or lack thereof) can be transferred to your child through breast milk.
The healthy bacteria in your baby’s gut microbiome will start to thrive almost immediately after birth. While in the womb, babies get some of the bacteria from their mother – but the majority of the beneficial bacteria they receive comes from contact with the vaginal canal during birth.
This is why experts usually recommend vaginal birth (if it’s the safest option for mom and baby). After delivery, a baby relies on breastmilk as a main source of this beneficial bacteria; another reason why breastfeeding is encouraged. For non-breastfed babies, we recommend a quality probiotic to mix into their formula to make up for the lack of bacteria.
A New Mom’s Guide to Probiotics
It is gradually becoming popular for mother’s to take probiotics while breastfeeding, because they have been proven to have several benefits for both the mother and the newborn. If you don’t know by now, probiotics are living organisms that can be found inside the human body – 400 species of this microscopic organism can be found in the gut alone!
Usually when we hear about bacteria, our minds immediately think of something bad. However, probiotics are beneficial bacteria that keep the digestive system healthy.
Here is everything to know about probiotics for breastfeeding mothers, including the benefits and possible risks.
Benefits of Probiotics While Breastfeeding
There are many benefits when it comes to taking probiotics while breastfeeding, but these are some of the most important ones:
Immunity for Baby and Mother: Breastfeeding can diminish the nutrients in a breastfeeding mom’s body, leaving her with a weakened immune system. This means that she becomes more vulnerable to illnesses, which can be passed on to her nursing baby. Probiotics help to build immunity for the mother and regulate her metabolism, which may fluctuate as she actively breastfeeds.
Not to mention, a new baby’s immune system (70% of which exists in the gut), will mature faster because of the good bacteria passed from the mother through breast milk.
Aids the Production of Vitamin B: Probiotics are known to assist in the production of Vitamin B, which is vital for skin and nervous system health as well as the prevention of anemia.
Prevents Constipation: Some studies showed that when infants had a regular supply of probiotics, their bowel movements and stool consistency improved, lowering the chance of chronic constipation in infants.
Prevents Eczema: Many newborns are prone to developing eczema, a skin condition that causes dryness and irritation. By taking probiotics while breastfeeding, you can help prevent the infection for at least the first two years of your baby’s life.
Prevents Diaper Yeast or Rash: Probiotics are also helpful when it comes to preventing diaper rashes in children by reducing the amount of yeast in their digestive tract. Yeast is the leading cause of the infection, and while probiotics cannot fully cure the issue, it helps lower its occurrence. Probiotics have actually been proven to be more effective than antibiotics, because antibiotics kill off the good bacteria in a baby’s gut microbiome.
Assists in Weight Loss: Mothers who take probiotics while breastfeeding are more likely to shed their baby weight faster. Since probiotics do most of their work in the digestive tract, they can help you feel fuller faster, and for more extended periods.
Reduces Acid Reflux in Your Baby: Some reports say that babies whose mothers take probiotics while nursing tend to have lesser acid reflux. Acid reflux occurs when food comes back up from the baby’s stomach, causing them to spit up. Although acid reflux isn’t typically a serious concern, probiotics can reduce its occurrence and make your baby more comfortable.
Prevents Thrush: Thrush is another infection caused by yeast, and it can be found on the mother’s nipples or around the baby’s mouth and tongue. It’s typically seen during the first year of birth and is usually not a cause for concern. However, it can get excruciating, and probiotics are a known solution. As mentioned, probiotics reduce the amount of yeast being produced in the body, therefore reducing the likelihood of the development of thrush.
- Prevents Colic: Colic is a phenomenon in babies known to be caused when a baby takes too much air when breastfeeding. It is rarely a serious condition and usually stops after the first 24 to 30 weeks after birth. However, it can still be very uncomfortable for your child as their gut might even be inflamed. When your baby’s gut has good bacteria from probiotics, they’re less susceptible to colic.
Probiotic-Rich Foods for Breastfeeding
Fortunately, incorporating probiotics into your diet as a breastfeeding mother is not too challenging. In addition to taking a probiotic supplement, certain foods contain bacteria if you want to go the natural route. These are some of them:
Soft Cheese: Cheese contains the probiotic strain B.lactic – which is a species of bacteria that naturally exists in the body. Some cheese, such as Gouda, which has been specially fermented, keeps probiotic bacteria alive until it gets to the intestine where it can thrive.
Kombucha Tea: Kombucha is another fermented food that carries a healthy amount of bacteria present in probiotics. In most kombuchas you’ll find the strains Acetobacter ( which produces acetic and gluconic acid) and B. lactose.
Tempeh: This is a probiotic-rich alternative to tofu and is suitable as a tofu and even meat alternative. The fermentation process produces L. plantarum and R. oligosporus, which helps in carbohydrate metabolism.
Kimchi: This fermented food also has the Lactobacillus plantarum strain of probiotics, which helps to metabolize carbohydrates. There are also reports that it has some strains of lactic acid bacteria.
Dark Chocolate: If you are looking for an excuse to have a few bites of dessert, then look no further. Lactobacillus plantarum is present Dark Chocolate – which is just one of the reasons why it is popular among health fanatics.
Yogurt: If you are looking for a cheap alternative, then this one's for you. Yogurt is filled with the B. animalis strain, which aids in digestion, boosting the immune system, and fighting harmful bacteria in food. Yogurt is also readily available and will promote the overall health of you and your baby.
Kefir: This food is made from goat’s milk and fermented grains, and apart from its supply of probiotics, it is an excellent supplement of antioxidants. Kefir usually contains the B. lactis strain.
- Pickles: Pickles contain two strains of probiotics: L. Plantarum and P. pentosaceaus, which are useful for preventing Salmonella invasion.
Suggested Probiotic Strains For Breastfeeding Moms
It might be challenging to find the best probiotic for breastfeeding moms. It takes a group of probiotic strains to get the most out of your probiotics supplements. The most common strains out there are the Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus, abbreviated as B. and L., respectively.
The former supports the immune system, helps break down lactose into nutrients, and limits the development of harmful bacteria in the intestine. The latter, on the other hand, serve as muscle fuel and can be found in the mouth, small intestine, and vagina.
When it comes to choosing probiotics for breastfeeding mothers, a few beneficial strains to lookout should be from these two main strains. They include the following:
- B. longum: This strain, which doubles as an antioxidant, can be found in the intestinal tract. It is useful in the breakdown of carbohydrates.
- B. breve: This strain can be found in the vagina and digestive tract. It is responsible for breaking down plant fiber into digestible components and fights off bacteria that cause infections. It also assists the body in absorbing nutrients by fermenting sugars.
- L.reuteri: This strain of probiotic thrives in the mouth and intestine is reported to assist the digestive system. It is also reported to decrease the number of bacteria that are responsible for tooth decay.
- L. acidophilus: This strain is common in yogurt and fermented soy products. In the human body, it can be found in the vagina and small intestine and is known to fight off vaginal bacteria.
When Are Probiotic Supplements Safe While Breastfeeding and What Are The Potential Side Effects?
Generally, taking probiotics while breastfeeding is safe for all parties involved. The bacteria from probiotics aren’t a foreign body and is only a way of replenishing the lost healthy bacteria. Therefore, both the mother and baby can benefit from the benefits of taking a probiotic supplement.
However, different people react differently to probiotics. One of the common side effects of consuming the substance includes bloating, nausea, and constipation, which usually only lasts for a couple of weeks as your body adjusts to the increase in bacteria.