Goodness knows I love me a throwback. My firstborn turned 6 this week and my nostalgia button activated big time, dragging out small details of the day he was born for their annual recap. I’m talking about the ones which usually remain deeeep down in the Rave Cave due to their proximity to some thought-I-was-dying-but-yay-actually-I-didn’t level pain.
For example; I recalled that one of the first thoughts to appear in my fatigue addled noggin after birthing a perfectly overcooked baby - directly after your standard “universe, please let him be healthy” - was “yeesh, poor kid has my weird hands.” Yes, one of the first things I noticed was a miniature replica set of the long fingered, zombie-reaching-up-through-the-dirt style pair of high five machines I’ve rocked for several decades, attached neatly to his chubby little wrists.
Because becoming a parent is like that. We offer up genetics without having much control over what is done with them. Now, inheriting long, strangely hyper-coloured hands is unlikely to impact my kid’s life much further than giving an advantage in basketball/Halloween dress ups, but some other things he inherited from me sure will. In fact - according to recent research - one particularly relevant hand-me-down scored courtesy of moi, is his microbiome.
It turns out that babies inherit their unique gut bacterial landscape from their parents. This comes mostly from Mum, a transferral happens during vaginal delivery and via breastfeeding where exposure to Mum’s helpful bacteria starts colonies in the baby’s body that grow into their own little microbiome. As with all things bacteria + birth this is gross + cool.
But what happens when these colonising processes don’t play out to perfection in the delivery room and beyond? Because the more we research this area, the more it seems that gut biodiversity points to better health outcomes throughout a person’s entire life… so, what if real friggin life happens and you can’t have a vaginal delivery, have decided it would be best for everyone involved not to, or you struggle with/prefer not to breastfeed? Or what if by some stroke of universal luck you DO manage to tick off all of these microbiome building checkpoints, then as with Zombie Hands McGee over here your baby needs antibiotics within the first few hours of his life anyway?
Fortunately, for what is frankly most of us, those clever researchers also found this golden nugget of info: the microbiome is not a static environment. The human microbiome actually remains mailable throughout your entire life, though is at its greatest flexibility inside the first 3 years. After this it becomes more stable, but not static. Which means those same a-holes who just now threw a match on the judgey stick of dynamite that is birth shaming and breastfeeding anxiety have followed up with a nice cooling glass of silver lining: if your baby doesn’t get some (or all) of those microbiome building checkpoints ticked off, you can still build biodiversity + improve long term health outcomes by supplementing them with probiotics. Hallelujah.
Due to that flexibility being greatest in the early years, it makes sense to supplement small people with a good quality probiotic regularly. There are some key things to look for when selecting the best one:
Variety - something broad spectrum to help build towards that biodiversity goal is key. More than one or two strains of bacteria are needed so as not to throw the colony out the balance;
A powdered product - to make it workable for tiny mouths when just about anything is a choking hazard, a capsule is out. Powders are versatile and can be added to expressed breastmilk, formula or dabbed on a nipple before feed time to get the dosage in;
Low in allergens and chemicals - avoiding unnecessary ingredients wherever possible is important with little people, always.
With the above three criteria in mind, PONO Probiotics has revised their Baby Probiotic Powder to be even better for little bods. A great formulation that already had 10 strains of different friendly bacteria in a useful powder, now has a cleaner vanilla vibes base to work with due to reduced maltodextrin. This has been ditched in favour of inulin fibre, which improves intestinal microflora in babies and small children and known for mimicking the prebiotic effect of mother’s milk.
So, this is a product for all the parents who couldn’t have the perfect birth. We see you, we’re with you and please don’t be freaked out by my strange hands as I pass you these revised and improved probiotics.
Jen Cox - AdvDip NAT + WHM.
Jen is the Naturopath at Greene Street Juice. She creates things: mostly content and recipes, though twice now she’s managed to build lovely little boys.