The benefits of probiotics are felt throughout the body– a stronger immune system and better nutrient absorption, among others. Probiotics show up in a range of health foods, yogurt, kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut. None of which are appropriate for young infants (although introducing sauerkraut may result in some interesting photos on your social media feed.)
Providing your baby the health benefits of probiotics is easy if you are breastfeeding. Research shows breast milk is more than just a blend of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Your breast milk meets the definition of probiotic. The World Health Organization, defines a probiotic as “a live micro-organism which, when administered in adequate amounts, confers a health benefit on the host.” Your breast milk contains hundreds of live micro-organisms in the perfect amount and an easily digestible form for your baby.
The breast milk of healthy moms contains thousands of ingredients, each specific to the needs of a growing human baby. If we focus in on the live micro-organisms only, breast milk hosts a diverse microbial community of more than 200 different groups with unique DNA and characteristics. About half of the micro-organisms are generic and shared in all human milk, the other half is unique to each mother and specific to her environment. When seen through a microscope, your milk is as distinctive as your fingerprints and provides your baby the cells needed to thrive in the environment you share.
One mystery of breast milk doctors are working on is how the micro-organisms that are exclusively yours get into your milk, since these cells are found exclusively in your digestive system. Scientists now think the bacteria that lives in your intestines migrate via your bloodstream to your mammary glands during the final weeks of pregnancy. When this bacteria arrives at your breast cells, it becomes one of the components of breast milk passed on to your baby. In this way, your body creates a customized blend of probiotics made just for your baby.
This article was written using these sources.
Ballard, O., Morrow, A. (2013). Human Milk Composition: Nutrients and Bioactive Factors. Pediatric Clin North Am. 2013 Feb; 60(1): 49–74.doi: 10.1016/j.pcl.2012.10.002
Bode, L., McGuire, M., Rodriguez, J., Geddes, D., Hassiotou, F., Hartmann, E., McGuire, M. (2014).It’s Alive: Microbes and Cells in Human Milk and Their Potential Benefits to Mother and Infant. Advances in Nutrition. http://advances.nutrition.org/content/5/5/571.long