Just like you, your newborn has a gut microbiome – trillions of bacteria that live in the gut. And their gut microbiome shapes their developing immune system… and their current and future health.
Without a healthy gut microbiome, your baby could face a greater risk for many health issues, including:
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Respiratory infections
- Gastrointestinal (GI) diseases
The first few months of life are especially important for your baby’s gut microbiome. How it develops depends on a few different factors, such as antibiotic use and diet. The choices you make for your baby can help create a well-balanced gut microbiome – and that can positively impact their lifelong wellness.
Here’s what you need to know to support your baby’s gut microbiome... and give them the best possible head start for a lifetime of vibrant health.
Three Phases of the Baby Gut Microbiome
As soon as your baby is born – almost immediately after delivery – their gut microbiome starts to change quickly. During the first few weeks, the newborn gut is vulnerable and easily influenced by things like feeding (breast milk or formula), bathing, and antibiotics.
Then, from the age of 3 months to 31 months, your baby’s gut microbiome goes through three distinct phases:
- Phase One: Development takes place from age 3 – 14 months
- Phase Two: Transition takes place from 15 – 30 months
- Phase Three: Stability takes place from 31 months on
Phase One begins when you start introducing solid foods. During this time, your baby’s gut microbiome will undergo remarkable changes. Many new species of bacteria will appear in your baby’s ever-changing microbiome, increasing the diversity – a hallmark of a well-balanced gut. This development phase sets the foundation for your baby’s lifelong health profile.
Phase Two takes shape as your baby transforms into a toddler. Just as they are maturing, their guts will begin to mature as well. In this phase, the microbiome will transition into more of an adult-like environment.
Phase Three marks the period of time when you and your little one have (finally) established consistent eating patterns. Within the gut, the result is a bacterial makeup (beneficial and pathogenic) that stabilizes.
These early stages will greatly influence your child’s health both now and for the future. So it’s important to do everything possible to help their gut microbiome develop a well balanced, flourishing population of beneficial (probiotic) bacteria.
Your Baby’s Future Health Depends on Their Gut Today
The bacteria in your baby’s gut have an enormous effect on the development of their immune system – especially during their first year of life. Beneficial bacteria in the gut produce many compounds necessary for abundant good health, including:
- Short chain fatty acids (SCFA)
- Several B vitamins
- Neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) including serotonin and dopamine
Gut bacteria and the compounds they produce influence many different players in your baby’s immune system. Among other things, a healthy gut microbiome promotes the production of T-cells, which regulate immune system responses and activate other immune cells to fight off threats. Beneficial gut bacteria also manage B-cells, which are responsible for producing antibodies (proteins designed to neutralize pathogens.)
In addition to influencing digestion and nutrient absorption, your baby’s gut microbiome also plays a large role in the development of their hormones and brain function.
So, it’s no stretch to say that your newborn’s gut microbiome will play a critical role in their overall health and wellbeing. And the makeup of your baby’s developing gut microbiome depends largely on what they eat…
What You Feed Your Baby Matters
Most experts believe that breastfeeding is the best choice for newborns – and the overwhelming majority of new moms plan to breastfeed exclusively for at least three months. But in reality, it doesn’t always work for everyone. In fact, studies show that more than 85% of new moms intend to only breastfeed… but only about 32% end up able to do that.
Several studies show that the gut bacteria of exclusively breastfed babies looks different than babies who get only formula or a combination of breast milk and formula. Breastfed babies tend to have fewer types of bacteria in their gut, with a preference for probiotic Bifidobacteria. Formula-fed babies tend to have more diverse bacteria in their gut microbiomes. But as companies strive to mimic breast milk with their formulas, the gut microbiomes appear more similar regardless of feeding method
Both of those can work for shaping your baby’s gut microbiome in the healthiest possible way.
Breast milk, as it turns out, contains tons of bacteria – the probiotic kind your baby needs to help colonize their gut microbiome. (link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6769289/)It also contains human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), special natural prebiotics that nourish protective probiotic gut bacteria so they can flourish.
When you breastfeed, the makeup of your gut microbiome has a strong influence on your baby’s gut microbiome. You can keep your gut microbiome in healthy balance with high quality spore probiotics and targeted prebiotics that feed only beneficial bacteria. And load up on nutrient-dense whole foods – especially fruits and vegetables packed with prebiotic fiber.
If you’re formula-feeding or mixed feeding:
Choose a formula that contains probiotics AND prebiotic fiber – especially oligosaccharides, which are similar to the HMOs found in breast milk. These ingredients will move your baby’s gut microbiome makeup closer to that of breastfed babies, which can help establish more beneficial bacteria. Formulas fortified with probiotics and prebiotics have been shown to improve immunity and bowel function in infants.
You may also want to look for a formula that doesn’t contain:
Those ingredients have all been shown to disrupt a healthy gut microbiome and encourage the growth of harmful (pathogenic) bacteria.
Give Your Baby the Best Possible Start
As parents, we all want to do the very best for our children. And one of the most important things we can do is to set them up for a lifetime of abundant health and wellness. That starts from day one with a healthy gut microbiome.
However you choose to nurture your baby, keep their gut microbiome in mind. Giving them the probiotics and prebiotics they need to develop a well-balanced gut microbiome can make all the difference in their future health.
Check out Just Thrive Probiotics and Precision PREbiotic now