Prebiotics for Infants

infant feeding


Is your baby formula fed? Did breastfeeding not work out as planned for whatever reason? Are you concerned about your child’s gut health and immunity?

I often recommend that infants and children should be taking a daily probiotic to help boost gut health and immunity. Although if your child is FF we could be doing more through the addition of prebiotics.

There is more and more evidence being released regarding the benefits of prebiotics in formula-fed (FF) infants to facilitate development of a more desirable microbiota resulting in subsequent health benefits.


Breastmilk has been referred to as the nutritional gold standard for term infants. One of the main reasons being that breast milk provides an immunological advantage as it contains many immunological compounds which are extremely difficult to replicate in infant formal. The carbohydrates found naturally in breast milk are not only a beneficial energy source, the oligosaccharides in breast milk act as prebiotics, showing a clear microbiome effect, and contribute to a distinct Bifidobacterium-dominant microbiota similar to that seen in a breastfed (BF) infant.

What are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics are non-digestible components of foods, usually a fibre, that are used by beneficial gastrointestinal bacteria as food, boosting their growth in the large bowel. For more information on prebiotics please refer to the following article

Breast milk contains galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) a prebiotic which stimulate the growth of Bifidobacterium in the infant gastrointestinal tract.

What are the benefits of prebiotics in formula fed infants?

The additions of prebiotics and probiotics can help to stimulate intestinal microflora and therefore alter the immune development in formula-fed infants. So what is the science showing with regards to the benefits of prebiotics in formula-fed infants?


1. Prebiotics improve stool characteristics of formula-fed infants.

Evidence reveals that the additions of prebiotics galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) to infant formula can assist in establishing a desirable microbiome profile which is closely related to that of a BF child. The result being an improvement in stool output.

2. Prebiotic oligosaccharides may reduce the incidence of atopic dermatitis.

Scientific evidence shows that intestinal microflora influences the postnatal development of the immune system. By stimulating the intestinal microflora through prebiotics we can alter the immune system development through promoting growth of intestinal flora. This has been proven to have a more pronounced benefit on immune system development rather than just adding in a single bacterial strain i.e. through the addition of probiotics.

3. Prebiotics may prevent intestinal and extra intestinal infections.

The prevalence of infectious diseases is less frequent in BF infants compared to FF infants, the science is revealing that this may be in part due to the microbial colonisation typical of breast milk. Research is showing that the addition of prebiotics in FF infants can reduced intestinal infections during the first year of life. 


Prebiotics, together with probiotics appear to be very beneficial to assist formula-fed infants in achieving a healthy gut microbiome which is closer to a more beneficial microbiome balance seen breastfed infants.

If you’re after some brands of infant formulas fortified with prebiotics, please send me an email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..