Can You Take Live Cultures While Breastfeeding?

Written by Angie Arriesgado
featured image for article on taking live cultures while breastfeeding

A breastfeeding mother needs to be mindful of anything she takes or consumes. Harmful ingredients from foods, supplements, and medications may make their way to breastmilk and pose some risk to the infant. Are live cultures supplements one of them though? Can moms safely take live cultures while breastfeeding? Let’s find out!

What are live cultures?

Live cultures, a.k.a. probiotics, are good and beneficial bacteria. They are found primarily in the gut, but also in other parts of the body. They’re naturally part of the gut microbiome, which is home to trillions of microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi (1).  

When are babies first exposed to live cultures?

It was previously thought that the womb is a sterile environment and that unborn babies aren’t exposed to microbes within the womb. But new studies have found the presence of microbes in the amniotic fluid, umbilical blood cord, and the placenta, suggesting the presence of a prenatal microbiome (2).

Outside of the womb, however, babies born via vaginal delivery have a distinct advantage over C-section babies. They are exposed to protective bacteria, such as Lactobacillus bacteria, when they pass through their mother’s vaginal canal. These newborns also typically have a more robust immune system compared to C-section babies (3).

On the other hand, studies show that the guts of C-section babies are primarily colonized by potentially pathogenic bacteria such as Staphylococcus, which are typically present on hospital surfaces and human skin. C-section babies have a higher risk of allergies, asthma, gastroenteritis, Celiac disease, and even type 1 diabetes (4).

Can live cultures be passed through breastmilk?

Yes, live cultures have been isolated from human breastmilk, meaning they make it all the way from the mother’s gut to the breastmilk. How? Well, according to Jimenez et al., these tiny microorganisms use the entero-mammary pathway to cross the intestine and reach the mammary glands (5).   

Is it okay for moms to take live cultures while breastfeeding?

Yes, healthy breastfeeding moms should be able to take live cultures supplements with no issues. After all, breastmilk is a significant source of live cultures for nursing infants. Examples of live culture strains found in breastmilk are Lactobacillus gasseri, L. fermentum, and L. salivarius (6).

In addition to live cultures, fibre or prebiotics are also naturally present in breastmilk. Fibre act as food for live cultures, allowing them to multiply and grow in numbers. This live cultures + fibre combo contributes to a more robust immune system in breastfed infants (7).

That being said, make sure you speak with your primary care physician or paediatrician before taking live cultures or any supplements, for that matter.

How do live cultures in breastmilk help babies?

Now that we know live cultures are one of the “ingredients” in breastmilk, here’s how it helps babies:

  • It may promote the growth of good bacteria population in the gut, such as the Bifidobacteria strain (7)
  • It may offer better immunity and protection against pediatric asthma (8)
  • When applied topically, breastmilk may help clear up eczema in infants (9)
  • It may contribute to an increase in lung volume and function (10)

Breastfed kids also turn out to be more resilient against stress-related anxiety. This includes parental separation or divorce.

Do live cultures offer any benefits to breastfeeding moms?

Studies show that live cultures found in breastmilk may help treat infectious mastitis. Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary glands, which commonly occurs within the first 3 months of breastfeeding. It’s a painful condition typically treated with painkillers and antibiotics (5).

Additionally, a New Zealand study showed that women who took live cultures during and after pregnancy had significantly lower depression and anxiety after giving birth.

We’ve written a comprehensive guide on the health benefits of taking live cultures here. But to give you an idea, here are some of the main benefits a breastfeeding mom may find helpful:

  • Live cultures may promote optimal gastrointestinal health
  • May offer respiratory health benefits
  • May improve skin health
  • These good microbes may help fight inflammation
  • May help manage a healthy weight
  • Helps improve sleep quality
  • May boost your overall immunity

So, what’s the best live cultures supplement for breastfeeding moms?

Not all live cultures are created equal. To reap the many benefits of live cultures, it’s important to make the right choice. We suggest you check out our 50 Billion CFU Adult Live Cultures and Fibre.

Our Adult Live Cultures contains 10 patented acid and bile-resistant strains. These are:

a bottle of Intelligent Labs live culture supplement

1. Lactobacillus acidophilus La-14®

2. Lactobacillus casei Lc-11®

3. Lactobacillus paracasei Lpc-37®

4. Lactobacillus rhamnosus Lr-32®

5. Lactobacillus plantarum Lp-115®

6. Lactococcus lactis Ll-23®

7. Bifidobacterium bifidum Bb-06®

8. Bifidobacterium breve Bb-03®

9. Bifidobacterium lactis Bl-04®

10. Bifidobacterium longum Bl-05®

It also contains 2 types of fibre – Sunfiber® (made from guar fiber) and Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) – to nourish the good bacteria.

Each capsule is overfilled to 150 Billion CFU at the time of manufacture. And we use active packaging technology to ensure there’s at least 50 Billion CFU within the 2-year shelf life. Lastly, each bottle contains 60 capsules (making it last for 2 months), so it’s excellent value for your money, too!

Now, those familiar with our products may be wondering if it’s okay to use our Women’s Live Cultures & Fibre instead?

Unfortunately, there aren’t enough studies to support the safe use of D-mannose for breastfeeding women, so we cannot recommend it at this point.

D-mannose is one of the ingredients in our Women’s Live Cultures, along with 4 strains of live cultures, 2 types of fibre, and cranberry juice powder. This product is formulated to help support women’s gut and urinary system health. Many customers have reported that our Women’s Live Cultures helped resolve their urinary tract infections and yeast infections, too.

What about fermented foods? Are they safe to eat when breastfeeding?

Fermented foods such as yogurt, pickles, kimchi, and miso are natural sources of live cultures. They are safe to eat while pregnant and breastfeeding, though you may need to consume them in moderation, especially the spicy ones. That said, fermented foods may protect breastfeeding moms against lactational mastitis and babies against infantile atopic dermatitis.

What are some possible side effects of taking live cultures while breastfeeding?

Live cultures are generally safe to take, but gas, bloating, and diarrhoea may occur during the first few days of intake. During this time, rebalancing is gradually occurring in the gut microbiome, i.e. the live cultures are working as they should!  

Final thoughts

As you’ve learned in this article, there are plenty of upsides to taking live cultures while breastfeeding. These tiny microbes can do a world of wonders for both mother and child. Side effects, if any, are usually mild and resolve in a short time. For best results, take your live cultures with a meal for optimal absorption.

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