Feeding Your Bub and Their Bugs

Written by
Clare Carrick ANutr (BHSc Nutrition and Health Promotion)

Scientifically reviewed by
Dr Fathalla Ali, PhD (Paediatrics)

26/2/2022

You’ve got all the gear…The ‘right’ highchair, the suction-cup plate, the pastel silicon baby utensils, and those smock bibs that cover your baby’s entire outfit…because you know exactly how messy this baby-feeding-business can get! You’re good to go…but what to actually feed them?

 

First Bites Towards Independence

For many parents, introducing solids can rightly feel like a major life event…a new era as your baby takes this big step away from being so dependent on only you. But it’s not just the humans in this scenario who are facing a huge adjustment, it’s also your bub’s gut bugs! 

 

The introduction of solids, and the subsequent change in intake of carbs, fat, protein, and fibre compared to breastmilk or formula, triggers a dramatic shift in the composition of the gut microbiome (1). In fact, this is when your baby’s microbiome will start to more closely resemble that of an adult (1). Let’s take a brief look at why exactly it’s so important to consider your baby’s gut bugs when introducing solids…

 

Gut health = Baby’s Health

Your baby’s gut bug population has a whole host of important roles to fulfill in order to achieve the type of ‘balance’ that allows children to thrive, physically and mentally (2). These include providing the body with essential nutrients, metabolising dietary fibre into short chain fatty acids, and helping the development of a robust immune system (2). 

 

A harmonious and balanced gut population will help to provide an optimal level of health to your bub, whilst a disgruntled and imbalanced population can cause health issues, both immediately, or in the future (2). Some problems that may arise from a disturbed gut microbiome include allergies, asthma, obesity, IBD, and even neurological issues (2). 

 

Eating for the Gut Bugs

Whilst a baby’s gut microbiome composition is as individual as a human fingerprint, studies have uncovered some dietary patterns that best support the development of an optimal gut microbiome (1). 

 

Babies who are fed a larger variety of foods, including common allergens, in those early months of eating solids, have been shown to have greater richness and diversity in their gut microbiome (1). Eating a greater number of different foods can also help to increase the beneficial gut bugs, like Bifidobacteria (1).  

 

Increased gut bug diversity is good news for your baby because it has been associated with a more stable gut microbiome, meaning their gut bugs are more likely to be able to survive stressors like illness or medication use (1). Babies eating more high fibre foods, like beans, broccoli or berries, have also been shown to have a more stable gut microbiome (1). This stability plays an important role in optimising the development of your baby’s immune system, so they can live a healthy and happy life (1). 

 

Variety is the Spice of Life

The take-home here really is that the wider the variety of foods you can offer your bub when introducing solids, especially those fibre-rich plant foods, the better their gut health will be. Overall, this is a win for optimal immune development and your baby’s lifelong health trajectory.



Keywords: Disease, Bifidobacteria, Toddlers, Baby, Allergy, Diet

References

  1. Homann CM, Rossel CA, Dizzell S, Bervoets L, Simioni J, Li J, Gunn E, Surette MG, de Souza RJ, Mommers M, Hutton EK. Infants’ first solid foods: impact on gut microbiota development in two intercontinental cohorts. Nutrients. 2021 Aug;13(8):2639.
  2. Kadim M, Masita BM. The importance of gut health in early life for long term health. World Nutrition Journal. 2022 Jan 31;5(S2):1-8.
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