Gut Health for Babies: Essential Tips for a Happy Tummy

August 8th, 2023 | 12:05 pm


Within the first year of life, your baby’s stomach grows and changes often. In order to eliminate harmful bacteria, their digestive tract strives to maintain a balance of beneficial gut microbiota in the stomach. As parents, we play a critical role in our child’s gut health. We must provide children with healthy meals that benefit rather than harm our baby’s microbiota. We can put them on their way to excellent gut health by introducing them to vitamins, proteins, and plenty of best foods for children’s gut health.

Here, we’ll cover everything a parent needs to know about their child’s gut health so they can give them the healthiest start possible.

Understanding the Baby’s Gut

Anatomy and functions of the baby’s gut

The gut is not fully developed at birth, like many other body organs. A baby’s gut is simply a long, folded tube that extends from the mouth to the anus. Its surface area is incredibly vast, much bigger than that of the skin. Each section of the gut has a unique structure that enables it to perform a specific function in the movement and digestion of nutrients.

  • Mouth – Breast milk or formula is absorbed by the baby’s mouth. The tongue forces fluid to the back of the throat and into the oesophagus as they swallow. 
  • Oesophagus – The oesophagus is the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. Its purpose is to move food or liquid from the mouth to the stomach while preventing reflux of stomach contents. 
  • Stomach – Food is converted into a liquid mixture in the stomach. It is mixed with enzymes and acids for digestion and stored in the stomach. 
  • Small Intestine – The small intestine is a tube-like organ divided into three sections: the duodenum, the jejunum, and the ileum. It helps in the subsequent digestion of meals and nutrient absorption. The liquid waste left is transferred to the colon. 
  • Large Intestine – The large intestine (colon) absorbs liquid waste, creating a solid stool that contains water, salt, and other minerals. 
  • Rectum – The rectum retains faeces prior to having a bowel movement. 
  • Anus – The anus is the body’s exit point for faeces. 
  • Liver – The liver produces bile, a substance that aids in fat digestion. Additionally, it digests food and stores energy.

The role of Gut Microbiota

The differentiation of the immune system and the growth of the gut are both significantly influenced by gut microbiota, which has a significant impact on the child’s physical and mental development. The composition and organisation of the gut microbiota are influenced by both host and microbial variables, including age, general health, genetic background, dietary habits, medication use, gastrointestinal transit time, and mucus secretions.

Due to its unique properties, the microbiota differs in each component of the gut. The interactions between the gut microbiota and other body organs can influence the development of several local and systemic disorders. Additionally, the microbiota influences vaccination reactions, changes medication metabolism, and provides defence against some diseases.

Breastfeeding and Gut Health

Benefits of breastfeeding for gut health

Breastmilk seeds and feeds the microbiome with helpful bacteria until it reaches maturity. The presence of beneficial gut bacteria reduces the risk of developing chronic illnesses, including asthma, allergies, obesity, dermatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and neurodevelopmental problems.

Some benefits of breastmilk include:

  • The child will more effectively absorb and utilise the nutrients in breastfeeding.
  • Breast Milk contains several anti-disease agents, helping to reduce the risk of hospitalisation and moderate to severe infections.
  • Breastfed newborns have more effective eye function, mainly because breast milk contains certain types of fat.
  • If your infant has an infection while being breastfed, it will likely be less severe.
  • Breast milk contains ideal nutrients for your baby’s developing nervous system and brain.

Techniques for successful breastfeeding

Here are a few pointers about breastfeeding to help you on this journey:

  • For the first hour after birth, hold your newborn close to your body. Skin-to-skin contact releases hormones that encourage milk production.
  • While nursing, try to relax and get adequate sleep. Your baby can pick up on your stress level, which might cause your milk supply to decrease.
  • Experiment with different breastfeeding positions to find what’s most comfortable for you and your baby. Breastfeeding will feel more natural as you become more at ease.
  • Promote milk production by eating a nutritious diet and drinking enough water. Breastfeeding mothers should consume an additional 500 calories each day.
  • Be mindful of extreme exercise, as it may affect your ability to produce milk. Exercise is beneficial for mood and stress reduction, but avoid overdoing it.

Introducing Solid Foods and Gut Health

Timing and approach to introducing solid foods

The introduction of solid meals is a significant nutritional event for babies, resulting in major changes in the gut microbial composition towards a more adult-like state. Due to their delicate immune systems, babies should not start eating solids until they are at least nine months old.

When starting your infant on solid meals, follow these easy recommendations:

  • Stay calm and composed during the introduction.
  • Be patient; initially, they might only eat a small amount, but with time and practice, they will consume more.
  • Keep an eye on your infant as you eat to promote conversation and prevent mishaps.
  • If your baby rejects the food at first, try again in a day or so.
  • Use a small spoon fit for a baby to serve the food.
  • Serve meals with a single ingredient and avoid adding salt or sugar.

Parents should focus on feeding their infants pureed whole foods as the main source of nourishment. Pureed foods aid in digestion and support the health of your baby’s gut microbiota, compared to whole, chunky meals.

Choosing nutritious and gut-friendly foods

Several foods that promote gut and general health and development in babies are listed below:

  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Dairy products like milk and yoghourt
  • Sprouted grains
  • Chicken
  • Fruits and green vegetables like beans

Common allergenic foods and introduction strategies

The following are the foods that commonly trigger allergic reactions:

  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Cow’s milk
  • Almonds and cashew nuts
  • Sesame
  • Fish
  • Wheat

Try introducing one new allergy food at a time, if possible. This way, it will be easier to determine which meal is causing your baby’s allergic response, if they have one. Before your baby reaches the age of 12 months, introduce common allergy foods, as this may reduce the likelihood of them developing an allergy. When offering solid foods for the first time, consider starting with meals that your family usually consumes, even if they contain ingredients frequently associated with allergies. Additionally, if feasible, continue breastfeeding while introducing solid foods, as this may further decrease the risk of allergies developing.

Promoting a Healthy Gut Microbiota

Probiotics and prebiotics

By serving as food for bacteria, prebiotics aid in promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Many high-fibre foods, such as whole grains and bananas, contain prebiotics in large quantities. Prebiotics are also abundant in breast milk, much like probiotics; in fact, they make up the third-largest portion, making them even more common than probiotics. Prebiotics and probiotics can be safely added to your baby’s food unless the child has a weakened immune system, cancer, or was delivered prematurely.

Encouraging a diverse diet

Getting children interested in new meals may be challenging, especially if they aren’t sweet dishes, as their taste receptors are more sensitive than adults. 

Here’s how to encourage a diverse diet in your children:

  • Eat together as a family since doing so helps model good eating habits for young children.
  • Use colourful plates to increase your children’s interest in their meals. A vibrant dish might help kids concentrate better as they eat.
  • Offer new food items multiple times, as kids are frequently more prone to reject a new cuisine before giving it a try.
  • Make nutritious snacks, as snack time is a great opportunity to introduce your child to new fruits, vegetables, and spreads.

Limiting sugar and processed foods

It is not advised to consume foods that have added sugars, low-calorie sweeteners, or no-calorie sweeteners. Examples of foods with added sugars include cookies, flavoured yoghurts, and muffins. Even 100% fruit juice, which doesn’t have any added sugar, contains a lot of sugar and lacks the filling fibre found in whole fruits. Avoid adding sweets to foods if you have small children under 24 months. Plan ahead and carry food with you when taking your children out.

Hygiene Practices for Gut Health

Handwashing and food safety

Before preparing meals and after handling raw meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, and eggs, always wash your hands. Also, ensure that your child’s hands are clean before feeding them. Teach your kids to wash their hands before eating, after using the restroom, and after touching any animals.

Sterilising feeding equipment and utensils

It is crucial to disinfect your feeding utensils correctly, as bottles and cups may appear clean but can still transmit germs to your baby. Without proper sterilisation, viruses, germs, and parasites may breed in bottles and potentially infect your child.

Addressing Digestive Discomfort

Common digestive issues in babies

Infants often experience problems with digestion. However, it can be challenging to identify these issues as they might exhibit a wide range of symptoms. Common digestive issues in infants include:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux (GER)
  • Colic
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation

It is advised that parents take their infants to a paediatrician if they exhibit unusual behaviours or excessive crying, as it may indicate discomfort or pain.

Seeking professional advice

Parents should bring their infants to the doctor if they notice any of the following signs when the baby spits up:

  • Traces of blood in the vomit
  • Vomit that chokes or makes the child gag
  • Frequent vomiting or projectile vomiting
  • Problems with gaining weight


A balanced diet is necessary for the natural and healthy development of a child. By providing a range of age-appropriate foods for their newborns and practising proper food hygiene to prevent unnecessary illnesses or infections, parents can boost gut health for kids. To achieve a gut reset, start incorporating as many real foods as possible into your child’s diet. Limiting processed foods and increasing the consumption of fresh, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and foods in their original condition is the key to achieving this.
Giggles Hospital is one of India’s premier paediatric gastroenterology children’s hospitals, providing high-quality healthcare services. Children with gut health problems receive thorough care from a group of highly skilled and knowledgeable paediatric gastroenterologists. Our specialised paediatric gastroenterology department offers comprehensive services for the long-term diagnosis and treatment of uncommon diseases and difficult situations that can impact children’s digestive health.