(NaturalNews) Mothers who feed their babies formula rather than natural breast milk are doing their children a major disservice in terms of their immune development and overall health. But baby formula can at least be somewhat enhanced through the addition of prebiotic foods and probiotic bacteria, which two recent University of Illinois (UI) studies found mimics, at least in a small way, the nutritional profile of natural breast milk in promoting proper intestinal development of young babies.
For their studies, both of which were published in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, Hannah D. Holscher and colleagues compared the immune and microbiota development of breastfed babies to those fed prebiotic- and probiotic-enhanced formulas, as well as to those fed control formula. They found that enhancing formula with both prebiotics and probiotics significantly improved formula-fed babies' development of disease-resisting intestinal microbiota, which did not develop properly in the control formula group.
"The beneficial bacteria that live in a baby's intestine are all-important to an infant's health, growth, and ability to fight off infections," said Kelly Tappenden, a professor of nutrition and gastrointestinal physiology at UI, concerning the studies. "Breast-fed babies acquire this protection naturally. Formula-fed infants get sick more easily because the bacteria in their gut are always changing."
Those babies in the prebiotic- and probiotic-enhanced formula group that were delivered via caesarean section (C-section) appeared to benefit the most from these nutrient additions, as they are even worse off than formula-fed babies delivered the natural way. Vaginally-delivered babies are imparted beneficial bacteria from their mothers which aids in their immune development, while formula-fed C-section babies lack both this bacteria and that which is delivered through breast milk.
"Babies delivered naturally are exposed to the mother's bacteria as they travel through the birth canal, and they develop a healthier population of gut bacteria as a result," added Tappenden. "Babies delivered by C-section enter a sterile environment, and their gut microbiota is quite different."
But if breastfeeding is not an option for you, the next best thing is to enhance an organic, nutritionally-rich baby formula with prebiotics and probiotics to help provide your baby with the best chance of proper immune and digestive development.