Mothers’ milk contains a wealth of nutritious ingredients which help the young infant get the best possible start in life. Among these are prebiotics called Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOS). There are now known to be more than 200 individual types of HMOS in human milk which help to establish a healthy balance of good bacteria in the baby’s gut.
Thanks to the presence of HMOS in mothers milk, babies which have been breast fed tend to have much higher levels of good bacteria, including bifidobacteria, than formula fed infants. A lack of good gut bacteria in young children is believed to be a key factor in the increased incidence of allergies and eczema.
Prebiotics (first generation e.g. FOS) are commonly added to infant formula in an effort to mimic the benefits of HMOS but they are at best a poor substitute.
The more advanced second generation prebiotics are a structurally closer match to HMOS and offer similar types of health benefits e.g. rebalancing the gut microflora, supporting the immune system and protecting against pathogens. Their similarity to natural HMOS means they can be safely given to even very young children.
Tummy upsets and other digestive problems are common among young children as their immune system is still developing and they readily encounter new bacteria in their environment. Antibiotics at this (and any) age, although often necessary, can also have the side effect of killing not only the bad but also the good bacteria in the gut.
Prebiotics, particularly the more advanced types can be very helpful in helping to rebalance their gut bacteria and restoring the good bacteria in the gut after a course of antibiotics or illness.