The last word most parents want to hear when it comes to their child’s formula is “added”. Synthetic additives have led to a warranted fear of anything amending food products. In the case of pre- and probiotics, addition is a good thing.
Why would we want to enhance baby formula as the HiPP Combiotik line does? What do prebiotics and probiotics do for infants? Let’s examine some answers to these questions and more.
The Microbiome – No, It Is Not a Sci-Fi Movie
The microbiome of the intestinal variety is the collection of bacteria that live in the intestine. These are good bacteria that help fight off infections and regulate weight. The microbiome is a relatively uncharted universe that scientists are discovering more about each day.
For babies, the microbiome is just developing. Some of it forms during pregnancy while the rest develops during infancy. Remarkably, the makeup of our microbiomes is determined by the type of birth – vaginal or cesarean section.
While we cannot change what happened during birth, infant nutrition can impact the microbiome in many ways. We know this because the microbiome of a breastfed child is often quite different than that of one who drinks formula as its main source of nutrition.
Breast milk is widely considered the most nutritious for a child. Given this, the examination of its contents can lead us to develop formulas that closely mimic its nutritional value.
Notably, breast milk contains a variety of probiotics and a lot of prebiotics. These are considered quite essential to the development of a healthy microbiome.
Prebiotics and Probiotics – More Than a Fad
Most of us have heard of probiotics at this point, as they are featured on virtually every cup of yogurt, smoothie mix bag, and healthy living magazine known to man and woman. As we know, probiotics are the healthy bugs that live in the gut system and take care of business.
Prebiotics are less popular but play an essential role in the life of probiotics. They provide the food to probiotics and help them develop over time.
The prebiotics in breastmilk consist of human milk oligosaccharides, let’s call them HMOs for short. These HMOs feed the probiotics, help develop the baby’s immune system and fight off infection during infancy.
With so many types of probiotics and prebiotics found in breastmilk, it is an impossible task to attempt to replicate them exactly. However, we know that breastmilk is perfect so any effort to mimic it is worth a try.
Prebiotics and Probiotics in Baby Formula
Brands like HiPP offer formulas with pre- and probiotics because they understand the value of creating a healthy microbiome. While adding these bacteria is an imperfect science, given the abundance of different types, it is a valiant effort at recreating the wholesomeness of breastmilk.
So how does the imperfect science get even close to the right cocktail of pre- and probiotics? Logic.
There are several options of probiotics that are regularly found in all breastmilk and that are found in high volumes in an infant’s microbiome. Fortunately, these popular probiotics are well known to be safe for infant consumption.
Theoretically, if they are found in breastmilk andin the guts of healthy infants, it would stand to reason that these probiotics make sense to introduce via formula feeding.
Likewise, prebiotics are vast in variety. In turn, the most common prebiotics are introduced in formulas. Their popularity in the microbiomes in healthy babies leads to the conclusion that they are most appropriate for enhanced infant formulas.
One ingredient found in breastmilk that acts as a prebiotic has gotten a bit of a bad rap of late: lactose. Yes, the very thing that is blamed for upset tummies in older children and adults is quite fundamental to infant microbiome health.
Formulas like those made by HiPP contain lactose. The baby digests much of it but some make it down to the area where the good probiotic bacteria can feed on it and grow in a healthy way.
While determining which pre- and probiotics are the ones that will make the most impact is quite challenging, there is value in introducing any of them via formulas. The potential benefits certainly outweigh not providing them at all.
Nature is miraculous and generally difficult to perfectly replicate. As we have seen, there is much value in trying when it comes to pre- and probiotics.
Probiotic can be traced back to mean “for life”. Introducing them and their prebiotic friends to formula can help fortify the microbiome in a way like the breastmilk made naturally. Brands like HiPP are developing ways to make infant formula as healthy for baby as possible, starting with the idea that replicating nature just makes sense.