Two new reports from the National Institutes of Health tout the benefits of natural supplementation for both premature infants and their moms. In a study involving more than 100 babies who were born “extremely prematurely” (weighing 2 pounds, 2 ounces or less) researchers found that administering a probiotic supplement once daily until they reached 34 weeks actually helped the babies gain weight.
While nearly half of the infants received a combination of beneficial Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bifidobacterium infantis, the remaining participants did not receive any probiotics. The difference in weight gain, researchers believe, has to do with the ability of probiotics to help the body more effectively absorb needed nutrients from the diet. Providing an infant-friendly probiotic supplement during the early years also helps to promote healthy digestive and immune function later in life.
Another study found that mothers of premature infants can promote healthy brain development in their babies by taking a natural DHA supplement. An Omega-3 fatty acid found primarily in fish oil, DHA has been shown to promote healthy brain and nervous system function as well as eye health, and breast-feeding moms taking supplemental DHA had more than 10 times the amount of DHA in their breast milk than those who were not taking a supplement. Study author Dr. Isabelle Marc stressed the importance of dietary supplementation in order for moms to obtain sufficient levels of DHA for the “optimal growth and development” of their babies.