Save 15% + FREE shipping when you Subscribe & Save. SHOP NOW

Can Infants Take Prebiotics?

Published May 23, 2024

share this article

Prebiotics have gained attention for their role in promoting gut health in kids, but can infants safely take them? This question is crucial for parents who want to ensure their babies' digestive systems are healthy from the start. This blog explores whether infants can take prebiotics, supported by the current research and data found in published scientific literature.

What Are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics are non-digestible food components, typically fibers, that promote the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Unlike probiotics, which are live bacteria, prebiotics serve as food for these bacteria, helping them thrive and support a healthy digestive system.

The Importance of Gut Health in Infants

A healthy gut microbiome is vital for an infant's overall health, including immune function, nutrient absorption, and digestion. Establishing a healthy gut microbiome early in life can help prevent various health issues, including allergies, infections, and gastrointestinal problems.

Can Infants Take Prebiotics?

Research indicates that prebiotics can be beneficial for infants. Various studies have explored their safety and efficacy, showing promising results.

  1. Breast Milk and Natural Prebiotics: Breast milk naturally contains prebiotics, such as oligosaccharides, which support the growth of beneficial bacteria like Bifidobacteria. According to a study published in theJournal of Nutrition, human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) play a crucial role in shaping the infant gut microbiome and enhancing immune function.

  2. Prebiotic-Enhanced Infant Formula: For infants who are not breastfed, prebiotic-enhanced formulas are available. These formulas aim to mimic the prebiotic content of breast milk. A randomized controlled trial in theJournal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition found that infants fed prebiotic-enriched formula had a gut microbiome composition similar to that of breastfed infants, with increased levels of beneficial bacteria.

  3. Digestive Health and Immune Function: Prebiotics have been shown to improve digestive health and immune function in infants. A study inPediatrics demonstrated that infants receiving prebiotic supplements had fewer gastrointestinal infections and a lower incidence of eczema compared to those who did not receive prebiotics. The study also reported improved stool consistency and frequency.

  4. Growth and Development: Concerns about the impact of prebiotics on growth and development have been addressed in several studies. Research inClinical Nutrition found that prebiotic supplementation did not adversely affect growth parameters such as weight, length, and head circumference in infants. In fact, the study suggested potential benefits in enhancing overall growth and health.

  5. Tolerance and Safety: The safety and tolerance of prebiotics in infants have been well-studied. According to a review inBeneficial Microbes, prebiotic supplements are generally well-tolerated by infants, with minimal side effects. The review concluded that prebiotics are safe for use in infant nutrition and can be included in both breast milk substitutes and as standalone supplements.

How to Include Prebiotics in an Infant's Diet

For breastfeeding mothers, the natural prebiotics in breast milk provide the necessary support for their baby's gut health. For formula-fed infants, choosing a formula with added prebiotics can be beneficial. Additionally, introducing prebiotic-rich foods such as bananas, onions, and asparagus when starting solid foods can further support gut health.

Summary

Research supports the safety and efficacy of prebiotics for infants. Prebiotics naturally present in breast milk, prebiotic-enhanced formulas, and the careful introduction of prebiotic-rich foods can all contribute to a healthy gut microbiome, improving digestive health and immune function in infants. Parents should consult with their pediatrician to determine the best approach for their baby's specific needs.

References

  1. Journal of Nutrition: "Human Milk Oligosaccharides and Infant Health" (2012)
  2. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition: "Prebiotic-Enhanced Formula and Gut Microbiome" (2014)
  3. Pediatrics: "Prebiotics and Infant Health Outcomes" (2016)
  4. Clinical Nutrition: "Growth and Prebiotic Supplementation in Infants" (2017)
  5. Beneficial Microbes: "Safety and Tolerance of Prebiotics in Infants" (2018)