If you’re a mom-to-be, you’ve probably heard all about the importance of probiotics. But what about taking it as a breastfeeding mom?
Probiotics contain live, active microorganisms (often bacteria) that are beneficial to humans. But you might be concerned about whether the bacteria in these products might lead to systemic infections (infections in your bloodstream), which could affect your breastfed baby.
According to a 2011 study, data suggest that probiotics can be safe to take while breastfeeding because these are rarely systemically absorbed. This study also points out that probiotics are unlikely to be transferred to your baby through breast milk.
When taken as recommended by your doctor, probiotics are generally considered safe. They’re well tolerated by most people, and can actually have plenty of benefits for you and your baby.
But there’s more to this as we delve fully into this guide.
What are the benefits of probiotics to you and your baby?
Can probiotics pass through breast milk or does your baby need separate probiotics for their tiny tummies?
Probiotics: Should You Take Them While Breastfeeding?
We actually have probiotics in our gut, whether we take supplements or not.
While newborn intestines are sterile and don’t have bacteria, even good bacteria like probiotics, humans eventually have these in our system through the food we eat over time.
Still, having a good number of probiotics in our tummies can help a lot in keeping our digestive system healthy, preventing unwanted issues like constipation or diarrhea.
So, if you want to avoid these uncomfortable tummy issues, you can consider taking probiotics while breastfeeding.
But wait! Probiotics aren’t for everyone. Let’s talk about their safety during breastfeeding below.
Is It Safe To Take A Probiotic While Breastfeeding?
Although research regarding probiotics and breastfeeding is limited, studies that took up this topic showed that they can be safe.
These studies concluded that probiotics don’t appear to pose any risks to a pregnant or breastfeeding mom. Especially because the live microorganisms are processed in the tummy and don’t reach your bloodstream.
And though blood-related bacterial and fungal infections have been reported, they’re extremely rare.
Your risks of getting sick from probiotic use might increase if:
- You have a known allergy to the bacteria or yeast used in probiotics
- You’re immunocompromised (HIV, on Chemotherapy, Diabetes, etc)
- You’re critically ill or recovering from a major surgery
Other than that, you’re likely to be okay.
The risk factors are estimated as follows:
- Bacteremia from Lactobacillus probiotics: 1 per 1 million users
- Fungemia from Saccharomyces boulardii: 1 per 5.6 million users
- The numbers are also estimated to be much lower in healthy individuals
But you might also be concerned about whether probiotics can pass through breast milk. After all, breastfeeding moms can’t just take any medications or supplements due to the risks that the ingredients can pass through breast milk and affect your nursing baby.
Do Probiotics Get Passed Through Breast Milk?
The good news is that the studies mentioned above assured worried moms like you that probiotics aren’t expected to transfer into breast milk. Probiotics aren’t systemically absorbed, so researchers theorized that they won’t go to your breast milk.
However, several studies have also shown that certain probiotic strains could reach your breast and get passed to your baby.
For example, this 2008 study showed that supplementing with probiotics might lead to an increase in probiotic numbers in breast milk.
Another study showed that Lactobacillus salivarius CECT 5713 from a mom may have transferred to their baby.
Also, in a recent study, Lactobacillus gasseri and Enterococcus faecium were identified in mother-baby pairs. Researchers explained that these breastfed infants’ only source of these gut bacteria is their mother’s breast milk.
Thankfully, even if probiotics might get passed through breast milk, they aren’t likely to harm your baby. In fact, probiotics are considered important and beneficial to babies, as I’ve already explained above.
Still, it’s always important to consult your doctor before taking any new supplement, especially because these aren’t regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).
Now that we’ve established probiotic safety (for most people), let us discuss their benefits with regard to breastfeeding.
Benefits of Probiotics While Breastfeeding
Did you know that probiotics can offer plenty of benefits while you’re breastfeeding?
There are many benefits of probiotics while breastfeeding. Probiotics can help to increase the overall health and immune function of both the mother and baby, as well as promote a healthy gut microbiome.
Additionally, probiotics can help to reduce the incidence of gastrointestinal issues in both mother and baby. More benefits are below:
Benefit #1: Improved Digestive Health
Probiotics are known to promote better digestive health and reduce constipation, diarrhea, or other gut issues.
Although these health issues might not affect your breast milk supply directly, they can cause discomfort and reduce the time spent with your newborn baby or resting because you’re taking so long in the toilet.
Benefit #2: Improved Immunity
Although this still requires further studies for confirmation, a 2014 study showed that probiotics are a promising option in disease prevention and treatment by improving your immune system.
Benefit #3: Reduced Nausea
While nausea from morning sickness is linked to pregnancy, some new moms still feel nauseous during their postpartum recovery.
According to UC Davis Health of the University of California, Davis, probiotics might help reduce nausea through different mechanisms:
- They increase the number of bile salt hydrolase-producing bacteria, which can help decrease the levels of nausea and vomiting
- They reduce the levels of Akkermansia strains, such as Akkermansia muciniphila, which were associated with vomiting and nausea during pregnancy
Benefit #4: Reduced Risk for UTIs
Women are more susceptible to UTIs (urinary tract infections) during and after giving birth.
That’s because there’s an increased risk of bacteria entering your urinary tract during labor. Then, after giving birth, you might experience bladder swelling and sensitivity, increasing UTI risks.
Strains that showed positive results include:
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1
- Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 (previously called Lactobacillus fermentum RC-14)
- Lactobacillus casei shirota
- Lactobacillus crispatus CTV-05
While Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG is known for its effectiveness in helping improve your gut health, the review above explained that this probiotic doesn’t appear to be useful in UTI prevention and treatment.
Benefit #5: Reduced Stress & Better Mood
Pregnancy and birth can wreak havoc on your hormones. That’s why new moms are more prone to mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and baby blues.
The good news is that a 2017 clinical trial showed that moms who took the Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 probiotics during pregnancy may be less prone to depression and anxiety.
Benefit #6: Help with Weight Reduction
Losing weight is a concern for many new moms who can’t seem to get rid of the pounds they gained during pregnancy.
Since a heavy workout is a big no-no for new moms during postpartum recovery, and you can’t go on a diet either if you’re breastfeeding, you might find help in probiotics.
According to HealthLine, several studies show that probiotics can help you reduce weight through these mechanisms:
- Releasing appetite-regulating, fat-burning hormones GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) and PYY (peptide YY)
- Increasing levels of fat-regulating proteins like ANGPTL4 (angiopoietin-like 4) to reduce fat storage
- Improving your gut health to protect against obesity
Benefit #7: Promote a Healthy Heart
Researchers explained that probiotics actually eat cholesterol, breaking it down for their nourishment. They also counter cholesterol production by absorbing fiber and generating certain acids (i.e. propionic acid) that signal the liver to reduce or stop making cholesterol.
The reduction in cholesterol levels can be good for your heart.
Benefit #8: Reduced Mastitis & Inflammation Risks
A recent study showed that supplementation with Ligilactobacillus salivarius PS2 probiotics during pregnancy and lactation might prevent mastitis, a painful breast inflammation due to infection.
Mastitis is one of the common reasons why new moms stop breastfeeding. So, it’s great to hear that something as simple as probiotic use can help prevent it, right?
Well, more studies and clinical trials still need to be done before we can say for certain that probiotics can prevent mastitis. Still, the results of the 2021 study are promising.
Benefit #9: Reduced Lactose Intolerance Issues
If you have lactose intolerance, it isn’t likely to directly affect your breastfeeding baby (if they aren’t lactose intolerant), but it can be uncomfortable.
Data from a 2018 study showed that probiotic bacteria found in fermented and unfermented milk products can help alleviate lactose intolerance symptoms.
Best Probiotics To Take While Breastfeeding
So, are you sold on the idea of taking probiotics while breastfeeding?
Note that these benefits aren’t guaranteed and most are simply preliminary results of some studies. It’s best to consult your doctor before taking any probiotic or new supplement, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
If you have your doctor’s approval to take probiotics, you have options to choose natural probiotics and probiotic supplements.
1. Natural Probiotics
Did you know that there are actually plenty of foods that contain natural probiotics? As long as you and your baby aren’t allergic to these food products, they can be safe to take during breastfeeding:
- Sourdough bread
Kombucha also contains probiotics but because this is a tea that contains caffeine and certain herbs, depending on the formulation, it might be best to hold off taking this unless you have your doctor’s approval.
Probiotics Supplements For Nursing Mothers
Probiotic supplements aren’t created equal – and some are specially formulated for nursing moms.
You can also opt for probiotic supplements that are good for women, even if these aren’t designed to provide nutrition during breastfeeding.
Below are my recommendations to help you pick the best one to meet your probiotic needs while breastfeeding your little one.
While Probiology Gut+ isn’t specially designed for breastfeeding moms, this probiotic is a good choice because of the technology that gives it a better chance of reaching your gut.
Probiotics need to be alive and active when they reach your intestines for them to work. They’re no use dead – and the harsh acids in your stomach could easily kill them before they reach their destination.
Probiology Gut+ probiotics are coated with a special bi-pass technology derived from brown seaweed that shields the live bacteria from your stomach acids.
This product also contains four active live strains with 40 billion CFUs (colony forming units) to help address your gut health issues:
- Bifidobacterium lactis
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Lactobacillus paracasei
What I really love about this probiotic is that it’s a shelf-stable product. You don’t need to keep it refrigerated.
It also comes with prebiotics, so your probiotics can have a ready “packed lunch” to boost their numbers when they arrive at their destination in your gut.
Postnatal Probiotic By LoveBug Probiotics
Postnatal Probiotic By LoveBug Probiotics contains 20 billion CFUs per serving. Although it has fewer probiotics than Probiology Gut+, I love that this is made especially for postpartum moms.
LoveBug’s Postnatal Probiotic helps provide immune support and supports breast milk production with a proprietary blend that features fenugreek seed, milk thistle, and fennel seed.
This multi-strain product contains:
- Bifidobacterium infantis Bi-26
- Bifidobacterium bifidum Bb-02
- Lactobacillus plantarum UALp-05
- Lactobacillus acidophilus La-14
- Lactobacillus fermentum SBS-1
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG
- Lactobacillus reuteri 1E1
It’s also a shelf-stable probiotic with prebiotics.
PinkStork Total Lactation Probiotics
Another probiotic especially designed for breastfeeding moms, PinkStork Total Lactation Probiotics contains 10 billion CFUs per serving:
- Lactobacillus paracasei
- Bifidobacterium infantis
- Enterococcus faecalis
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
This female-formulated probiotic is produced by a women-owned and women-run company.
It’s a product that helps support your immune system and gut health, and might even offer colic relief for your little one.
FAQs on Probiotics and Nursing mums
When’s The Best Time To Take Probiotics While Breastfeeding?
There isn’t a specific time for taking probiotics while breastfeeding.
But because timing matters to ensure that the gut bacteria aren’t killed off by your stomach acids, it’s best to consider how long after taking probiotics you can eat.
Another 2011 study showed that probiotics might best survive and are best taken at least 30 minutes before a meal because taking them 30 minutes after eating can reduce their survival rates.
Can Taking Probiotics While Breastfeeding Make My Breastfed Baby Gassy?
Sometimes, probiotics can make you feel gassy, especially during the first few days of use. However, since probiotics aren’t likely to pass through your breast milk, they won’t directly affect your little one.
This means that probiotics might not make your breastfed baby gassy.
Can You Increase Probiotics In Breast Milk?
Studies involving probiotics and breastfeeding moms are limited and may have conflicting results.
Still, several studies discussed above showed that supplementing with probiotics might lead to an increase in probiotic levels in breast milk. Researchers in these studies explained that these breastfed infants’ only source of gut bacteria is their mother’s breast milk, and these moms had taken probiotics.
However, other studies mentioned above also showed different results and many researchers agree that probiotics aren’t passed through breast milk.
How To Increase Probiotics In Breast Milk
Despite the conflicting results and more studies needed to determine the exact pathways that help increase probiotics in breast milk, there are some that show promising results.
A clinical trial showed that taking a high-dose, multi-strain probiotic product can directly influence breast milk production.
According to the clinical trial’s results, probiotics taken during pregnancy could influence:
- Breast milk cytokines pattern
- sIgA (secretory immunoglobulin A) production in newborns
They might also improve gastrointestinal functional symptoms in babies.
So, based on the results of this clinical trial, it’s ideal to pick a high-dose, multi-strain probiotic. Still, be sure to consult your doctor before taking a probiotic supplement for the first time.
Is Kefir Safe While Breastfeeding?
Yes. Kefir contains the probiotics Lactobacilli and Saccharomyces (a type of yeast). Another study showed that it can protect breastfeeding mothers and might also reduce their risk of developing lactational mastitis (a painful breast inflammation due to infection).
Due to its lack of toxicity, kefir can be safe to take in moderation, as long as you and your baby don’t have allergies to any of its ingredients. Always check the label to be sure.
Is Kimchi Safe During Breastfeeding?
Kimchi is a probiotic, but there’s some debate on whether it’s safe to eat if you’re breastfeeding because it’s spicy food.
According to a 2017 study on maternal food restrictions, moms in Korea are told to avoid eating this popular Korean food because it could cause gas, colic, and diaper rashes in their breastfeeding infants.
But what if you really love kimchi and other spicy foods?
I’d say, go for it!
The researchers in the 2017 study above explained that there’s hardly a reason for moms to avoid eating spicy foods and similar foods popularly restricted during breastfeeding due to old wives’ tales.
Just be careful with foods containing allergens because these could pass through breast milk, but others typically don’t, the researchers added.
How Beneficial Is Yakult For Nursing Mothers?
Yakult is a popular probiotic drink that contains around 20 billion CFUs of Lacticaseibacillus paracasei Shirota per bottle. The brand claims that it’s safe and beneficial for nursing moms.
Studies about the benefits of Lacticaseibacillus paracasei Shirota might be limited but some have shown promising results.
A 2021 review showed that this strain is among the probiotics that could help prevent and treat infant regurgitation, also called infant reflux.
Another study also showed that it could help relieve the symptoms of constipation and possibly improve the potentially depressive symptoms of patients with depression. While the study wasn’t performed on nursing moms, this could still be relevant because new moms are prone to experiencing postpartum depression.
It would be nice to know that probiotics might even help prevent depression in new moms, aside from providing other benefits.
The verdict is in: probiotics can be taken while breastfeeding. Probiotics help to populate the gut with good bacteria, which helps keep babies healthy and may also improve their immune system function. Probiotics are safe for both mom and baby, but should always be taken as directed.
Always speak with your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about taking probiotics while breastfeeding. Or feel free to contact me for further clarifications or questions.