7 things parents need to know about newborns' gut health

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Did you know that when used during the first three months, probiotics can prevent colic and also aid in digestive health?

New mums have a lot of question about their new babies, particularly about their health during those first few months. In her Parent Herald story, Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE  from www.ingrainhealth.com shares the seven things parents should know about their baby’s gut health.

1. Probiotics

Not all bacteria are created equal: while there are bacteria that you don’t want your babies exposed to, there are also those that you want inside of them—such as probiotics.

Did you know that when used during the baby’s first three months, probiotics can contribute to the prevention of colic and also aid in digestive health? In fact, a recent study in Genome Biology found that bacterial exposure during infancy may affect gut health later in adulthood.

2. Constipation

While most babies poop constantly, some babies may suffer from constipation, making pooping difficult and uncomfortable. This is evidenced by hard stools.

Thankfully there are natural remedies for it for older babies. For example, adding in their diet 2-4 ounces of fruit juice such as grape, pear, apple, cherry or prune juice two times daily can get things moving again.

3. Allergies

According to Katie: “For many years it was thought that withholding potentially allergenic foods—such as peanuts—would help reduce allergy.

“But new studies suggest that even for a baby at elevated risk for food allergy, he or she could start on peanut-containing foods prior to one year of age, and this may actually reduce overall allergy risk.”

Did you know that babies get IBS too? Learn more on the next page!

4. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

This common adult affliction happens to infants as well. In fact, 10 to 20 percent of children experience recurrent abdominal pain related to IBS.

“While there is no cure," says Katie, "IBS can be treated and managed with changes in medication, diet and nutrition, addition of probiotics and a variety of therapies for mental health problems.”

5. Stomach size

A common concern for new moms is that they aren’t producing enough milk, which then makes them wonder if they’re underfeeding their babies. That’s why it’s important for new moms to know how small their babies’ stomach actually is to know whether they're feeding their babies enough

Katie provides these figures:

  • Day 1 of life: a baby's stomach capacity is approximately the size of a shooter marble
  • Day 3 of life: stomach is approximately the size of a ping pong ball
  • Day 10 of life: stomach is approximately the size of an extra-large chicken egg.

6. Frequency of stools

Katie says that counting wet and dirty diapers can help ascertain whether or not a baby is getting enough milk. Providing these numbers, she hopes to illuminate moms about the frequency of their baby’s stools:

  • In the earliest days of life, a baby has roughly one dirty diaper for each day of life
  • By day 4, the baby has at least 3-4 stools per day, but they are only about the size of a quarter
  • Moving into weeks 2-6, parents can expect 3-4 or more stools per day, the size of a quarter or larger
  • After 4-6 weeks, babies have less frequent bowel movements; some babies even go 7-10 days without stooling

“Regardless of your baby's frequency or size of stool, as long as the baby is gaining weight per the recommended guidelines, variations from these numbers can be entirely normal,” she says.

7. Introducing solid foods

A growing body of organizations are now suggesting parents not to introduce solid foods to babies until their 6th month.

“The reason for waiting is that earlier in infancy the space between the cells in the gut are open, which is great for absorbing antibodies in breastmilk,” Katie says.

“But this ‘open gut’ can also allow large proteins from other foods through, which can predispose babies to food allergies.

“After about 6 months, gut closure occurs and babies begin producing their own antibodies that can help protect against allergy and other invaders.”

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