Five things to do for a healthy happy tummy
Build them up from the inside
Although they are invisible, the tiny microscopic bacteria in your baby’s tummy are essential to their health and wellbeing, and an imbalance of healthy bacteria can cause digestive discomfort. Childhood is an important time to help promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. A diet rich in probiotics and prebiotics can have a positive impact on gut health.
The easiest way to think about probiotics is that they are the friendly bacteria found in the gut and prebiotics act as food for the friendly bacteria to thrive. The population of all the bacteria living in the gut is known as the “microbiome”. Encouraging some interaction with nature is also important to diversify your child’s microbiome, which in turn supports their immune system.
Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for most infants. The prebiotics and probiotics that are naturally found in breast milk can have a positive effect on your baby’s tummy by encouraging the growth of good bacteria and reducing the growth of potentially harmful bacteria.
However, if you cannot, or choose not to, breast feed, consult your pediatrician for advice whether a milk with added prebiotics is suitable for your baby.
Encouraging healthy eating
The food your child eats has a big impact on their gut health, so it’s good to make sure every mouthful is packed full of the right nutrients and goodness. In addition to their usual milk, and from the age of six months onwards, a healthy diet should become more varied with increasing amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, some lean meats and fish, whilst the amount of sugary and processed foods should be limited. It’s perfectly normal for your child to need a little encouragement to try new foods. If they see you and the rest of the family enjoying these foods, they will be more likely to try them.
Once you start introducing solid foods to your baby’s diet, it’s good to know that probiotics can be found in natural yoghurts and fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut. Prebiotics are found in garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, and some enriched formula milks. If you have any concerns or doubts about your baby’s weaning, please contact a healthcare professional.
Little and often
Did you know that your baby’s tummy is around 10 times smaller than yours? So, by feeding them smaller portions more regularly, you’ll help them keep their energy up during the day and ensure they never get too full or bloated.
Reflux is when a baby brings up milk or is sick shortly after feeding. Reflux is really common in babies and something that they often grow out of. You may worry that your little one isn’t getting enough nutrients, but as long as they’re growing well and soiling their diapers there shouldn’t be a problem. Contact your healthcare professional if you have any concerns or need additional support.
Keep them hydrated
The prebiotics in breastmilk will ensure that your child’s stools will remain soft. However, when they become a bit older, constipation can become a common problem. Hard stools that looks like small pebbles, smelly wind or excessive straining are all signs to look out for. Making sure your child is well hydrated will help prevent constipation. Healthy babies under six months old do not need extra liquids (such as water or juice) because they should receive adequate hydration and nutrients from breastmilk or formula-milk. For children older than six months, offer water in a cup throughout the day. Juice is not recommended for children under a year.
Let’s get moving
We all know how much better we feel after exercise and it’s no different for your child! Massaging your baby’s tummy, or gently moving their legs in a cycling motion can help encourage bowel movements in babies, and for toddlers some general exercise may help to get things going. Why not enjoy some dancing, stretching or yoga together? If possible, taking a walk outside whilst remaining responsibly distanced and avoiding large crowds is a great way to encourage your child to enjoy exercise.
Food and coronavirus (COVID-19)
COVID-19 is an infectious disease. There is currently no convincing evidence that any food or dietary measures can protect against or treat infection.
A healthy balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables is recommended to get the necessary nutrients to support gut health, for both children and adults.
Good hygiene, social distancing, and isolating those who are infected are the best-known ways to prevent infection. Follow the latest COVID-19 guidelines issued by your health authorities and check them on a regular basis.
If you have any concerns or doubts about your child’s health, please contact a healthcare professional.