Your 0 to 6 weeks newborn Newborn essentials
Food, breaking the solids down into smaller particles that are more easily absorbed through the gut wall, while others play a role in making certain vitamins. Who knew such tiny creatures had such a big job? Great buys that help in the early days
WHEN GOOD BACTERIA GO BAD
Things can go wrong, concedes Dr Cooke. “Gut bacteria can become invasive and cause serious illness including pneumonia, meningitis and bacteraemia,” she says. This is usually in newborns, malnourished children or those with impaired immune systems. Preterm babies are also at risk of a condition called necrotising enterocolitis due to their immature immune and gastrointestinal systems. Much encouraging work has been done on the use of prebiotics and probiotics in neonates to prevent these conditions, explains Dr Cooke. Probiotics are regularly used to bring balance between the “good” and the “bad” bacteria back, particularly when a course of antibiotics gives your baby’s flora a knock. If the balance of normal protective organisms is disrupted, you can get overgrowth of fungi like candida (thrush), and this can also be prevented to some extent with probiotics. “Probiotics can result in a new colony of bacteria being established after the antibiotic course and that these are similar to the organisms that are promoted to grow when a child breastfeeds,” says Dr Cooke. Certain brands of formula milk now also include prebiotics in an attempt to mimic the natural protection provided by breastmilk, although this can never replace the multiple benefits of breastfeeding.
Consider this: spraying your baby’s room from top to bottom with an antibacterial solution may be doing them harm in the long term. “By living in a sterile world we may be deregulating our immune systems, thereby increasing the likelihood of autoimmune, allergic and inflammatory conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes,” says Dr Cooke. Research is also pointing towards evidence that shows that your future weight/ obesity and even mental health can be affected by the bacteria you’re hosting in your gut – so it’s all the more important for your baby to begin life with a healthy gut. YB