By: Tanya Altmann MD
For parents who aren’t familiar with the infant gut microbiome, it’s important to note that nature intended for a specific strain of good gut bacteria called B. infantis to outgrow bad bacteria during the first six months of life. When the good bacteria thrive, the bad gut bacteria linked to colic, eczema, allergies and asthma don’t have room to grow, let alone influence the programming of the immune system. B. infantis essentially gives the immune system a six-month head start with good bacteria before solids introduce new bacteria into the mix. This ratio of good to bad bacteria is key to optimal gut health, particularly during the early days of infancy.
But while nature intended for B. infantis to be the protector of baby’s gut microbiome, science shows it’s been going extinct over the past few decades, making this is a very unhealthy critical generational issue. In fact, many of today’s parents never had B. infantis themselves, which makes it impossible to pass to baby.
If you’re curious if B. infantis is missing in your baby, a single “yes” to any question in the following Baby Gut Checklist can be a great indicator.
- Were you or your baby given antibiotics during pregnancy, childbirth or in the first six months after childbirth?
Antibiotics are necessary to resolve many health issues, but they’re also known to simultaneously wipe out good bacteria in the gut. If you tested positive for Group B Strep during pregnancy, antibiotics that are important to protect your baby would have been prescribed before or during the childbirth process. Or, if your baby was given antibiotics shortly after birth, good bacteria also could have been eliminated.
- Were you or your baby born via C-section?
C-sections are also necessary sometimes, but because B. infantis lives in the gut, it can only be passed from mom to baby during vaginal delivery (via fecal matter). So if you’re about to give birth and reading this, don’t be afraid to poop on the delivery table. And if you did, hopefully this provides some relief knowing there was a good reason it happened.
- Does your baby have diaper rash or poop more than 5x/day, and is that poop loose and watery?
Poop is a great indicator of what’s happening inside the gut. While we often assume that five loose and watery stools a day is “normal,” perhaps we shouldn’t. When bad bacteria dominate the gut, baby will poop more frequently and “blowouts” are more frequent. This is not only an annoyance for mom and dad, but it’s this frequency that can irritate the skin and lead to diaper rash. Babies who have B. infantis, however, poop less frequently and when they do, it’s better formed because they are able to absorb all key nutrients from their diet.
If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, your baby likely does not have B. infantis in his or her gut microbiome. In this case, I recommend supplementing baby with a probiotic with activated B. infantis during the first six months of life. And even if you answered “no” to all the questions, adding activated B. infantis to your little one’s diet can only strengthen your infant’s gut health.