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Our gut microbiome is teeming with bugs, in fact, our gut microbiome houses 10 times more microbial cells than human cells1. Research into the impact our gut microbiome has on our health has flourished in recent years with a smorgasbord of information demonstrating disruption of our delicate gut ecosystem has the potential to cause a plethora of conditions.

An area chock full of amazing research is the use of probiotics in infants to prevent or treat common childhood complaints namely colic, eczema and allergies.

“The three main types identified during breastfeeding and prior to weaning are B. infantis, B. longum, B. breve”

Gut Bacteria Most Predominant in Infants

During the first few hours of life colonisation begins however, a newborn babies gut microbiome is unstable until breastfeeding is complete. Once breastfeeding has ceased a child’s gut will begin to resemble an adult microbiome. One of the earliest species identified within newborn babies guts is the Bifidobacterium species2.  The three main types identified during breastfeeding and prior to weaning are B. infantis, B. longum, & B. breve3.

Bifidobacteria plays an important role within the gastrointestinal tract and can safely and effectively colonise the gut5. In a 2006 double-blind, placebo-controlled study, B. lactis was found to re-establish a balanced gut microbiome composition in preterm and full-term newborns and toddlers.6

What Impacts a Newborns Gut Flora?

  • Mode of delivery
  • Maternal microflora
  • Type of feeding (breastmilk v formula milk)
  • Antibiotic use in newborns
  • Gestational age
  • Use of probiotics during pregnancy
  • Antibiotic use during pregnancy

What are the differences between Caesarean and Formula-Fed Infants?

Caesarean babies do not come into contact with maternal microflora increasing their risk for an Clostridium infection which can cause severe diarrhoea4. Breast milk contains Bifidobacterium species so although a C-section baby may not receive maternal microflora if they’re breast fed studies have demonstrated Bifidobacterium does colonise the gut lowering their count of Clostridium. Infants fed formula and breast milk also demonstrated colonisation of Bifidobacterium, however the number of bacteria inhabit the gut was lower.


Suggested Probiotic Intervention
Vaginal Birth & Breast Fed Not necessary but a probiotic containing B. lactis and/or  L. rhamnosus may be beneficial
Vaginal Birth & Breast Fed & Formula Fed Not necessary but a probiotic containing B. lactis and/or L. rhamnosus may be beneficial
Caesarean Birth & Breast Fed A probiotic containing B. longum, B. breve, B. infantis may be beneficial
Caesarean Birth & Breast Fed & Formula Fed A probiotic containing B. longum, B. breve, B. infantis may be beneficial
Caesarean Birth & Formula Fed A probiotic containing B. longum, B. breve, B. infantis

Infantile colic

Colic is characterised by a flushed face, drawing up of the legs, excessive flatulence, and crying for more than 3 hours a day for a period of 3 weeks. An infant with colic has been shown to produce more gas-forming bugs than infants without colic7. B.breve and B. longum were the strains found to be most beneficial for the treatment of infantile colic. It could theorised that L.rhamnosus could be beneficial as studies have shown these levels to be lower in infants with colic in comparison to healthy infants8.

Eczema & Allergies

Atopy (children with one or more of the following – eczema, hay fever and/or asthma) amongst children is on the rise. Atopy is the over activation of our immune system to a substance within the environment. Atopic children have demonstrated gut bacteria that resembles that of an adult9. Specifically, they have been shown to have lower levels of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus and higher levels of clostridium – linked to severe diarrhoea9. Therefore, a connection between improving Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus has been put forward as a potential therapeutic treatment to help with these conditions.

As atopy involves an inflammatory response of our immune system, probiotics have been demonstrated to reduce the allergic response by decreasing inflammation10. During the critical period in which the risk of allergic disease is high, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species aid in the appropriate development of the immune system11.

A double-blind placebo-controlled study conducted in 2009 concluded caesarean-delivered children whose mothers were given B.breve during the last month of pregnancy reduced their allergy risk12. Another study found that B. lactis and Lactobacillus rhamnosus reduced symptoms of atopic eczema two months after treatment13.

Overview of probiotic treatment for colic, eczema & allergies

Condition Probiotic Strain
Eczema B. animalis
Allergies B. breve
Colic B. breve, B. longum, L. rhamnosus

Spectrumceuticals make a practitioner quality probiotic free of gluten and dairy for infants and children with the strains mentioned in this article. The product is called Spectrumceuticals Pro6-Infant.

Words by 

megan-jane-logo-green-450BBioMedSci BClinSci




  1. Rosenfeld CS. Microbiome disturbances and autism spectrum disorders. Drug Metab Dispos. 2015;43(10):1557–71
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  10. Ouwehand, E. Isolauri, F. He, H. Hashimoto,Y. Benno and S. Salminen, “Differences in Bifidobacterium flora composition in allergic and healthy infants,” Journal Allergy Clinical Immunology, vol. 108, pp. 144-145, 2001.
  11. V. Kirjavainen, T. Arvola, S. J. Salminen and E. Isolauri, “Aberrant composition of gut microbiota of allergic infants: a target of bifidobacterial therapy at weaning?,” Gut, vol. 51, p.51–55, 2002.
  12. Isoluri and S. Salminen, “Probiotics: Use in Allergic Disorders: A Nutrition, Allergy, Mucosal Immunology, and Intestinal Microbiota (NAMI) Research Group Report”.
  13. Kuitunen, K. Kukkonen, K. Juntunen-Backman, R. Korpela, T. Poussa, T. Tuure, T. Haahte- la and E. Savilahti, “Probiotics prevent IgE-associated allergy until age 5 years in cesarean-de-livered children but not in the total cohort,” Journal Allergy Clinical Immunology , vol. 123, pp.335-341, 2009.
  14. Isolauri, T. Arvola,Y. Sutas, E. Moilanen and S. Salminen, “Probiotics in the management of atopic eczema,” Clinical and Experimental Allergy, vol. 30, pp. 1604 -1610, 2000.

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