Probiotics and Breastfeeding

Benefits of probiotics in pregnancy and breastfeeding

Probiotic bacteria are a group of bacteria that occur naturally in our bodies. They perform a number of essential functions which include helping to regulate functioning of the digestive system, maintaining healthy bowel, liver and immune function and assisting in the production of B group vitamins.

Recently, the health benefits of probiotic supplementation in pregnancy and breast feeding has been investigated in numerous clinical studies. Pregnancy is a time of intense change and upheaval for expecting mothers and digestive problems are extremely common during this time.

Studies show that taking probiotics during pregnancy can help to alleviate digestive issues such as constipation, heartburn, diarrhoea and cramping. Probiotics also appear to strengthen the immune system of the developing foetus, protecting it against food allergies in infancy.

It is extremely important for babies to be breastfed after child-birth if possible. Breast milk, especially the colostrum or pre-milk, is highly immunogenic. This means that breast milk is able to stimulate and balance the infant’s developing immune system.

Probiotic supplements, particularly those of the Lactobacillus strains of probiotic bacteria, also exhibit this immunogenic action, and appear to boost the immunogenic action of breast milk when these supplements are taken during breast feeding. In addition, these probiotics may confer protection on the infant's developing immune system. Studies have shown that babies breastfed by women taking Lactobacillus-rich probiotic supplements are less likely to develop atopic allergy such as eczema, food allergies and intolerances.

Many infants exhibit intolerance to dairy products and in turn, react to their mother’s breast milk.

Supplementation with an infant probiotic formula may help them to better tolerate the proteins and sugars contained within the breast milk. Probiotics may also help to reduce the incidence of gastrointestinal upsets seen in these infants, including infantile reflux, colic and irregular bowel elimination.