Bifidobacterium infantis, better known simply as B. infantis, is a beneficial bacteria found naturally in the human body. Generally concentrated within a human being’s gastrointestinal tract and mouth area, B. infantis is one of the many lactic acid bacterial strains. In an adult, B. infantis serves to improve and maintain the health of the digestive tract. Its very name, B. infantis, brings to mind infants and newborn children. But is this nomenclature a mere coincidence, or is B. infantis actually important for your baby? Here is everything you need to know about this probiotic strain and its effect on babies.
Where Does B. infantis Come From?
Your microbiome is comprised of trillions of gut bacteria, many of which are helpful and friendly in their function. Approximately 80% of the microorganisms located in your gut are from the Bifidobacterium species, making it one of the most common probiotics that are found naturally in the human body.
The infant microbiome is populated by the strains of probiotics collected while descending through the birth canal. The few microbes that a fetus is exposed to via the placenta and the large troves of bacteria babies gather through the birth canal, impact the health, immunity, and wellbeing of the child during the course of a lifetime. These bacterial strains proliferate, colonize, and thrive within the infant’s intestinal tract and help support their immune defense even decades later. (1)
B. infantis is passed into the body of an infant via the mother’s breast milk. This strain is easily the most prolific in the bodies of babies who are breastfed. While breastfeeding, an infant usually receives between 10 to 100 million bacterial strains every single day. (2) These varied bacterial strains play an important role in creating a diverse gut microbiome. B. infantis is particularly essential for infants as it is the only strain that is equipped to fully break down and use all the sugars that are present in breast milk. From the very first time a child is breastfed, this bacterial strain begins to aid the processes of digestion and nutrient absorption. This is why B. infantis is recognized as a breast milk super-strain probiotic.
Benefits of B. infantis
B. infantis is one of the first strains of probiotics to colonize the infant gut microbiome, and this strain remains a part of the human being’s body for the rest of their lives. Research shows that B. infantis plays an important role in improving the functioning of the digestive process and supporting babies’ immune response against infections and illnesses. (3) These are a few of the reasons why doctors recommend that expectant mothers should supplement their diet with this strain of probiotics.
For adult women, B. infantis is an important strain that colonizes in the digestive tract as well as the vagina. This probiotic produces huge amounts of lactic acid that help make these areas acidic, and completely inhospitable to external bacterial strains and parasitic organisms.
There are a number of benefits to be derived from B. infantis:
- Improves the functioning and efficiency of the body’s immune system
- Helps reduce the inflammatory response of the body if you are suffering from allergies
- Reduces the symptoms of acute diarrhea as well as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Reduces the amounts of urinary oxalates in your body, which helps stop the formation of painful kidney stones. (4)
How B. infantis Helps Babies
For babies and infants, B. infantis is the strain that firmly establishes the microflora within the gut. It increases the immunity of infants, particularly those born with very low birth weight. (5) Studies also suggest that children who did not have adequate amounts of B. infantis in their gut area are more prone to allergies, obesity, and Type 1 diabetes. Let’s take a look at how B. infantis can support infant health and development.
Production of acetic acid
Similar to other probiotic Bifidobacterium strains, B. infantis is anaerobic and works by producing short-chain fatty acids such as acetic acid in the intestines. Not only does acetic acid provide a steady source of energy to babies, but it also serves to nourish the cell lining within the intestine. From here, the acetic acid works to stave off invasions from pathogens, fungi, and yeast.
Production of proteins for the gut lining
As compared to adults, babies have intestinal cells that are situated a little away from each other. These gaps make a baby susceptible to invading forces such as harmful bad bacteria and toxins. An infant’s body needs to produce sufficient proteins that serve to fill these gaps. B. infantis is the strain that signals the gut lining and encourages the production of proteins in a baby’s body. Over time, these protein molecules strengthen the lining of the gut and make it less permeable and susceptible to infectious invasions and conditions such as ulcerative colitis. (6)
Production of folate
B. infantis aids in the production of folate in the bodies of infants. (7) Also known as Vitamin B9, folate plays a pivotal role in the production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells in the body. It also supports the synthesis and repair of DNA in the human body.
Breaking down sugars found in breast milk
Breast milk contains a large number of carbohydrates called oligosaccharides. However, these carbohydrates cannot be processed or absorbed by the infant’s body. The truth is that these carbohydrates do not feed the infant—they are there to be processed and assimilated by B. infantis probiotic strains. Without these sugars, B. infantis would not survive. Research indicates that thriving B. infantis strains in a baby’s microbiome could reduce the chances of conditions such as asthma, diabetes, obesity, heart diseases, and some types of cancer, colic, and allergies.
Production of sialic acid
As B. infantis feeds on human milk oligosaccharides, it ferments an essential nutrient called sialic acid. (8) Upon release, this acid improves the development of the brain in infants.
Starving bad bacteria
If the concentration of bad bacteria increases in the gut of a baby, chances are high that they will develop conditions like dysbiosis in the gut area. B. infantis helps reduce the possibility of an eventuality by pushing out all the bad bacteria from the child’s body.
Probiotics for Babies
B. infantis stays true to its name and is an important element in the bodies of infants. In order to maintain the levels of B. infantis and continue to gain from it, there are a few steps for expectant and new mothers to consider.
- It is recommended for new mothers to continue nursing their babies for at least six months after birth. Ensuring that an infant is exclusively breastfed at the start of life sets the child up for a lifetime of good gut health supplemented by friendly probiotics.
- In order to pass on healthy bacterial strains to infants, mothers need to ensure that their microbial flora repositories are thriving. Choose a high-quality probiotic supplement that contains B. infantis to be taken before, during, and post-pregnancy to keep your microbiome balanced and healthy.
- As much as possible, avoid antibiotic use as they are renowned probiotic-killers.
- C-section moms especially should consider giving their baby a probiotic supplement since these infants miss out on the balance of gut microbes typically established through vaginal birth.
LoveBug Probiotics’ dietary supplements are designed with the specific needs of infants and expectant mothers in mind. Labor of Love features a proprietary blend of probiotics including B. infantis as well as 250mcg of folate. Tiny Tummies is the first staged probiotic for infants. For babies between the ages of 0 to 6 months, this infant formula contains the B. infantis super strain, B. lactis, the #1 clinically studied strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, as well as prebiotic fiber (the food that feeds the good bacteria). These multi-strain probiotic supplements are designed to be beneficial to babies and are the perfect ally to help you raise happy and healthy little ones.
- University of California – Davis. “Bifidobacteria supplement colonizes gut of breastfed infants.” ScienceDaily. Last modified June 2018. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180609194242.htm.
- Boix-Amorós, Alba, Maria C. Collado, and Alex Mira. “Relationship between Milk Microbiota, Bacterial Load, Macronutrients, and Human Cells during Lactation.” Frontiers in Microbiology 7, (2016): 492. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00492.
- Ciorba, Matthew A. “A Gastroenterologist’s Guide to Probiotics.” Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology 10, no. 9 (2012): 960-968. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2012.03.024
- Abratt, Valerie R. and Sharon J. Reid. “Oxalate-degrading bacteria of the human gut as probiotics in the management of kidney stone disease.” Advances in Applied Microbiology 72, (2010):63-87. doi: 10.1016/S0065-2164(10)72003-7.
- “Facts about B. Infantis Probiotic Strain.” Probiotics.org. Accessed on June 26, 2019. https://probiotics.org/9-health-benefits-of-bifidobacterium-infantis/.
- Ewaschuk, Julia B., Hugo Diaz, Lisa Meddings, Brendan Diederichs, Andrea Dmytrash, Jody Backer, Mirjam Looijer-van Langen, and Karen L. Madsen. “Secreted bioactive factors from Bifidobacterium infantis enhance epithelial cell barrier function.” American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology 295, no. 5 (2008): G1025-G1034. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.90227.2008.
- Rossi, Maddalena, Alberto Amaretti, and Stefano Raimondi. “Folate Production by Probiotic Bacteria.” Nutrients 3, no. 1 (2011): 118-134. doi: 10.3390/nu3010118.
- German, J. Bruce, Samara L. Freeman, Carlito B. Lebrilla, and David A. Mills. “Human Milk Oligosaccharides: Evolution, Structures and Bioselectivity as Substrates for Intestinal Bacteria.” Nestle Nutr Workshop Ser Pediatr Program 62, (2010): 205-222. doi: 10.1159/000146322.