Q and A for Inspired Wellbeing magazine
Question: At the time of giving birth to my new baby I had to have antibiotics for a high temperature. I was told that the antibiotics wouldn't pass to my baby through my breast milk but I am unsure as he seems very colicky, irritable and upset with his digestion. I thought colic didn't start until around 3 weeks and he is only 1 week old?
When I first decided to write my book on helping colicky babies it was exactly because of the observation you have just made, that antibiotics really were affecting babies.
I noticed that around 80% of the babies I was seeing with colic and digestive pains had been exposed to antibiotics.
I started to look at medical research and confirmed what I thought, that the antibiotics DO pass to the baby if the mother had them at delivery time, or had taken them whilst breast feeding. Research is now showing that antibiotics taking during pregnancy will have an impact on the baby's gut health to.
Obviously, they can also be given directly to the baby too.
But what was more significant to me was I could easily notice the effects the antibiotics were having in these babies because they were so upset and colicky with wind pain and they were noticeably were going for poo’s a lot.
I understand that babies do poo a lot! But babies exposed to antibiotics tend to go up to 10 times per day, virtually every nappy, and it can be quite watery too.
The antibiotics were obviously necessary to have because of your high temperature, however it has been known for a very long time now that antibiotics kill off the “bad” bacteria but also the “good” bacteria.
This is exactly what happens in both babies and adults and it often results in diarrhoea as a side effect. In the baby of course we call it colic, so parents think their baby has colic when technically it has what you could call “colic due to antibiotics”.
Research comes out almost weekly at the moment which I think is so important for mothers in your situation to know which revolves around the importance of our gut bacteria and the impact the early moments of life have upon it and our children's future health.
It’s all very new but it seems our gut bacteria plays an incredible role in either keeping us healthy or predisposing us to illness.
Did you know that we have more bacteria cells in our gut than we have cells in our whole body? Around 60 trillion!
And will live a delicate balance with them, us keeping them happy and in turn they keep us healthy and happy too.
In this case I also think the fact that the colic has started early, at one week also points to the antibiotics too.
There are many other causes behind an irritable baby, such as having forceps or a ventouse delivery which cranial osteopaths routinely see although you haven’t mentioned this.
It has been found that illnesses in adults have specific patterns of gut bacteria changes, even obesity can be viewed as changes in the gut bacteria.
So we have a very common situation that you have described; that many, many babies are having antibiotics in their first moments of life which is altering their gut bacteria, and the science shows it creates an imbalance of more bad bacteria and less good. A study has even shown that these change persists for months if not years.
For this reason I nearly always recommend a specialist probiotic that the mother takes if she is breast feeding which passes thorough her milk or if the baby is fed by bottle it can be dropped straight in that. I use Optibac For Your Baby.
The probiotics I choose to use have science showing they are safe and effective, I like to have this science backing the products I recommend. At this current time the best thing we have is to use probiotics to correct the gut bacteria balance for you baby, so I would highly recommend this.
I use them many, many times every day with the baby patients I see and we have great results in lots of areas. I also feel very confident that by doing this you are giving them FUTURE health protection too.