Probiotics may support the immune health of babies born by cesarean

Pregnant woman and baby with special needs
6 Min read

Being born by cesarean can disturb the balance of bacteria in the gut of babies (i.e. the gut microbiota). This can result in less bifidobacteria – a type of bacteria that is important in early life. Giving babies probiotics that contain bifidobacteria may help balance the gut microbiota and thereby support the immune system and their health.


The gut microbiota is the collection of bacteria that live in the digestive system. It takes shape when we are babies and is important for health throughout all stages of life.

A woman’s bacteria are passed on to the baby during birth

During vaginal birth, important bacteria from the mother are transferred to the baby. These bacteria help form the gut microbiota and are important for the development of the baby’s immune system.1 Therefore, the bacteria from the mother may have a long term, beneficial effect on the baby’s health.2 

Bifidobacteria are important for the development of the immune system

In the first few weeks of life, bifidobacteria are ideally the dominant, most abundant group of bacteria in the gut of a healthy baby.3 Clinical studies have shown that bifidobacteria have a significant role in the development of a healthy immune system.4
The ideal composition of bacteria in the gut can be disturbed, becoming imbalanced. This is called dysbiosis and has been associated with some health conditions later in life.1, 2 Dysbiosis occurs frequently in early life and a common reason is being born by cesarean.

Baby with special needs due to preterm birth

Cesarean delivery may disturb the ideal balance of bacteria 

 Babies born by cesarean do not always receive the important bacteria from the mother that help form the baby’s gut microbiota.5 These babies have a lower amount of bifidobacteria compared to vaginally delivered babies.2 Lower numbers of bifidobacteria have been associated with an increased likelihood of obesity later in life, excessive crying and fussing, and an inappropriate immune response to allergens.

Babies born by cesarean may not receive the important bacteria that are transferred to babies during vaginal birth.  

In the first few months of life, bifidobacteria are ideally the most abundant bacteria found in the gut - probiotics may help

In a high-quality study, newborn babies were either given baby formula that had been supplemented with a Bifidobacterium called Bifidobacterium,  BB-12®  (hereafter referred to by use of the trademark BB-12®), standard baby formula, or were breastfed. At 1-month of age, the babies who were given the BB-12® baby formula had a similar amount of bifidobacteria in their gut as that of breastfed babies, which was significantly higher than in the babies receiving the standard formula.

Further, in a 28-day study that included babies who cried excessively and fussed, babies given the BB-12® probiotic cried and fussed significantly less than the babies given a placebo.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months, followed by continued breastfeeding together with complementary foods.9

Lactobacillus rhamnosus, LGG® in early life may also be beneficial 

Other probiotic strains have also been shown to be beneficial for health when used in early life, such as by supporting immune and digestive health.10, 11, 12, 13 For instance, supplementation with Lactobacillus rhamnosus, LGG® has been associated with shorter episodes of loose stools,10, 13 fewer digestive conditions,11 and less respiratory tract discomfort.11, 12
Newborn baby born by c-section

Probiotic supplementation may help the developing gut microbiota 

Probiotic supplementation during early life could be beneficial as it may help balance the developing gut microbiota and support digestive and immune system health.7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13 

Consult a health care professional if to consider recommending giving the BB-12® or LGG® probiotic strain to a baby to support their healthy development.7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13 
Click to read about the LGG® and BB-12® strains.
If you have any questions, consult a health care professional to find out more.

BB-12® and LGG® are registered trademarks of Chr. Hansen A/S.

The article is provided for informational purposes regarding probiotics and is not meant to suggest that any substance referenced in the article is intended to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent any disease.

References Open Close

  1. Gensollen T, et al. Science. 2016;352(6285):539-44. (PubMed
  2. Walker WA. Pediatr Res. 2017;82(3):387-95. (PubMed
  3. Korpela K, de Vos WM. Curr Opin Microbiol. 2018;44:70-8. (PubMed
  4. Ruiz L, et alFront Microbiol. 2017;8:2345-. (PubMed
  5. Korpela K, et al. Microbiome. 2017;5(1):26. (PubMed
  6. Rautava S. In: Isolauri E, et al., editors. Intestinal Microbiome: Functional Aspects in Health and Disease 2017. (PubMed
  7. Langhendries JP, et al. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1995;21(2):177-81. (PubMed
  8. Nocerino R, et al. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2019. (PubMed
  9. World Health Organisation. International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes. (Source) Accessed 12th November 2021.
  10. Isolauri E, et al. Pediatrics. 1991;88(1):90-7. (PubMed
  11. Hojsak I, et al. Pediatrics. 2010;125(5):e1171-7. (PubMed
  12. Hojsak I, et al. Clin Nutr. 2010;29(3):312-6. (PubMed
  13. Aggarwal S, et alIndian J Med Res. 2014;139(3):379-85. (PubMed)
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