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Should you give probiotics to your newborn?

Should you give probiotics to your newborn?

Baby is born. From that moment on, every action could have a lifelong consequence. The birth delivery mode, diet, direct and indirect environments all have impacts. A baby’s body is like a sponge, absorbing what the world has to offer. And this includes billions of microorganisms that will colonize it. From day one, baby’s immune response is activated to test what is accepted, and what is not. Early life external factors shape baby’s microbiota, impacting its immune system. Consequently, a baby’s diet has a great influence on its immune response during the first months of life. [Harper, 2021]

Microbiome composition in breast-fed vs. formula-fed infants

Breastfed babies get numerous benefits, in both the short and long term, as they get all necessary nutrients and bioactive substances for a healthy growth and immune development. It has been found that breastfed infants have a reduced risk of acquiring infectious diseases and developing atopic disorders, hypothesized to be through the composition of breastmilk, which includes immunological components such as: immunoglobulins, cytokines, and microbiologic factors [Moore, 2019]. Therefore, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, followed by supplemental breastfeeding up to 2-year-old, whilst solid foods are introduced.

Sometimes though, breastfeeding is not an option. Luckily, marketed infant formula is recognized as a safe and reliable alternative to feed babies. Of course, there is still space for innovation and improvement in the formula recipe, as today’s science has not yet elucidated all the intricacies of human milk composition to replicate it perfectly. When looking at two groups of babies, one breastfed, one formula-fed, there will be noticeable differences in the gut microbial composition. The microbiome of formula- fed babies shifts towards an ‘adult-like’ microbiota at a quicker rate, with higher overall bacterial diversity. In addition, in exclusively formula-fed babies, a greater prevalence of E. coli, C. difficile, B. fragilis and Lactobacilli species has been observed to colonize the gut. This contrasts with breastfed infants’ gut microbiome, which is dominated by Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Enterococcus and Clostridium species, as well as specific species of Bifidobacterium. For infants that are not breastfed, commercial probiotics in infant formula or in supplements can provide the necessary bacteria required to help develop their immune system in the same way as a breastfed infant, providing an equitable start to life. [Moore, 2019]

The interest of probiotics in early life

Within the first 1,000 days of an infant’s life, probiotics and prebiotics can be added to its diet, to promote healthy growth and development [Robertson, 2019]. In recent clinical studies, probiotics have shown a capacity to help maintain secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA) levels (which is one of the first barrier defense) in formula-fed babies [Xiao, 2019], as compared to the placebo group, which showed a significant decrease in sIgA levels. In another study, single strain probiotic supplementation maintained a ‘baby-like’ microbiota, characterized by large proportions of Bifidobacteria vs. a faster evolution of the gut microbiota towards an ‘adult-like’ microbiota in the placebo group, characterized by a microbiota with larger concentrations in Bacteroides, Blautia, Clostridium, Coprococcus and Faecalibacterium [De Andres, 2018].

Whether baby is fed with mother’s milk, infant formula, or a mix of both, probiotics can contribute to support its normal gut and immune maturation in early life… and beyond. Probiotic supplementation comes in convenient and adapted dosage forms such as powder and drops.

To learn more:



  • De Andrés. 2018. Modulatory effect of three probiotic strains on infants’ gut microbial composition and immunological parameters on a placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized study. Beneficial Microbes, 2018; 9(4): 573-584.
  • Harper A et al. Viral Infections, the Microbiome, and Probiotics. Front. Cell. Infect. Microbiol. 10:596166. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2020.596166
  • Moore RE, Townsend SD. 2019. Temporal development of the infant gut microbiome. Open Biol. 9: 190128.
  • Robertson RC et al. The Human Microbiome and Child Growth – First 1000 Days and Beyond. Trends in Microbiology, Vol. 27, No. 2
  • 2019. Probiotics maintain intestinal secretory immunoglobulin A levels in healthy formula-fed infants: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Beneficial Microbes, 2019; 10(7): 729-739.

Published May 19, 2021 | Updated Apr 3, 2024