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Should Babies and Children Have Cultured Foods?

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Having babies is a big event. For me it was life threatening and life changing.

My third pregnancy was actually the catalyst for this blog, my website, and my books. My pregnancy was a scary event – things quickly went from bad to worse and they delivered my baby 7.5 weeks early to save my life and hers. Never did I expect something so painful and scary to teach me the things I know today. But I had to learn, somehow, some way, that I was more than the sickness that consumed me and my family. The pain was temporary, wellness was my birthright, and by golly I was gonna find my way to wellness, no matter what. At the age of 41, I finally discovered who I was. It started with a better understanding of the birth process.

Bacteria and birth

When you were in your mother’s womb, you were in a sterile environment. But when you passed through the birth canal, or entered the world through a Cesarean section, you were infused with bacteria from everyone and everywhere—your mother, the doctors, the nurses, the environment—pretty much anyone and anything you came in contact with affected the bacteria in your system. And this is important because it laid the foundation of your inner world. These bacteria are responsible for many of the biological processes that influence your life to this day. They supply us with necessary vitamins and protect us from disease-causing invaders. When you destroy this new foundation with antibiotics right at birth, the bacteria barely have time to get a foothold. The antibiotics wipe out much of the remaining good bacteria which were meant to protect and nurture you. The types of bacteria you received from your mother will determine how your immune system will thrive and grow.

Giving Kids Cultured Foods

I never understood these principles and I had very different experiences with my children because of it. My first two children didn’t receive cultured foods until they were in their teens.  They were what I thought of as  “typical kids.” Ear infections and sickness were the norm and to be expected. But when my third child was born almost 7.5  weeks early and with an immune system that was struggling, I knew I had to do something to help her. I found kefir and began giving her a tablespoon in every bottle and her life transformed (My story video).  Kefir changed everything. She thrived and never had one ear infection, nor did she ever go to the doctor because of sickness – not once – and she is now seventeen. When she was born, the doctors told me she had a weak immune system and would probably always struggle with sickness, but I believe the cultured foods changed all that.

Stories of kids and cultured foods

Let me share the story of two people who have experienced the benefits of cultured foods.

In January of 2012,  I contracted with a company (Sound and Shadow) to help me shoot some videos and manage my website. I invited them to shoot a video on my boat in the summer and they all spent the weekend with my family and me.  A few weeks later, two of these men told me their wives were expecting babies just a few days apart. Their wives had been consuming cultured foods for a few years. Their wives told me stories about their children. Each of them had at least one child prior to cultured foods and then another child after consuming cultured foods. And they both had another child on the way. The children who received cultured foods shortly after they were born were much healthier than the siblings who did not. They had very few doctors visits and they learned to use cultured foods to treat aliments in their kids. Stomach problems were solved with the juice from cultured veggies. Colds and flus were lessened or prevented by strengthening the immune system with daily doses of cultured foods. Their children were experiencing the same thing I had experienced. They were healthier because they started consuming cultured foods early in their lives!  When anyone consumes cultured foods your immune system works better in general and this makes the processes in your body work better.

https://www.culturedfoodlife.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/1004766_10151610759839279_35772521_n-copy.jpg

So what to do?

So what to do? And how and when do you start giving children cultured foods? I will share my experience and what I have witnessed has had the most success. Remember, you are laying a foundation that will last a lifetime. Starting to consume cultured foods early, before you’re pregnant, is ideal. I believe it can even help you get pregnant by helping hormones begin to function in a better way. But if this is not the case, and you find yourself pregnant or with a newborn, then it is still a good place to start, but always start slowly and build up from there. This is just food, but this powerful food will change your inner world. Consume only small amounts in the beginning – a few spoonfuls will do.

I Started With Kefir

I started with milk kefir. You can do dairy or dairy-free kefir. They both worked great for my preemie and for me. I use goat milk kefir mostly and we saw a dramatic change in our health. Because kefir is so powerful with 50+ probiotics, I think this is the best cultured food to begin consuming.

I gave my baby one tablespoon of milk kefir in her bottle or by spoon. I did this several times a day, and I watched as she started sleeping through the night. She stopped getting every little cold and virus, and she put on four pounds in a month, which is a lot for a preemie!

This was all I did in the beginning, and it made a huge difference. So simple, but adding 50 plus good bacteria to her little gut with kefir changed her from the inside out. If your a nursing mom then the best way to give your baby kefir is for you to consume it and then they will naturally get this from you. My daughter was 10 months old when I started on cultured foods and had already quit nursing (much to my dismay).

Trilogy

Evidence shows that probiotics can play a role in improving colic,1 eczema,2,3 and intestinal problems in babies 4. But if you start them off early enough, you might never have these problems.

In the very beginning I started making kefir with the Kefir Powder packages, and this is what I fed my daughter and then later on started using the Kefir grains as well. She was a toddler when we she spoonfuls of cultured veggies and kombucha too or what I call “The Trilogy”. Many people share with me how they’re kids love the Trilogy, and how they enjoy my recipes, because it makes it easy to find things they like. I even have an eBook “Cultured Food for Kids” that I give to my Biotic Pro members once a year, that has 37 kid friendly recipes.

Kids respond very fast to beneficial microbes in cultured foods. It can make all the difference to start them out young. Always follow your own instincts and let your body teach you what works the best. Our bodies are amazing and complex. If our bodies could talk I can imagine them to say, ” You be good to me and I will shine for you!”

105 Responses to "Should Babies and Children Have Cultured Foods?"
  1. Hi Donna, thank you for sharing this post.
    I have a question 🙂 We have a 7 week old who is on formula off the shelf 🙁 About to switch to home made goats milk formula with a great recipe from a nutritionist that our holistic Dr has approved. In the event he doesn’t digest the milk well, what is your opinion on using goats kefir? Too strong or too much? Or do you think a baby would go well on a formula made of kefir?
    Thank you for your time,
    summah

  2. Hi Donna, my oldest daughter, who is 22, is pregnant for the first time and just 8 weeks along. For my first 2 kids I followed the route of vaccinations and antibiotics. From a few months old till about 2 she was on and off them until I finally sought answers and began using a homeopathic dr. I wish I knew about adding fermented foods because although homeopathy helped she still struggled to get over sickness easily. I am sure her gut still needs healing. She is very sensitive to any kinds of meds and just things in general. Therefore, right away at 5 weeks she began feeling sick and vomits often. She can hardly eat and is miserable plus works in a hair salon and all the smells bother her. Any suggestions for help with nausea and tips for the remainder of the pregnancy? Would you recommend the ancient minerals for her? I know she can’t handle concentrace minerals because of the taste. Wanting my grand baby to have the best in health while in the womb. Thanks for all your incredible information. Can’t stop reading all your posts.

  3. Hi, I have a nearly 6 month old whom I will be weaning soon. I bf exclusively and will continue to do so for as long as I can. I have been on whole milk kefir for about a month now which I make at home but wondered if I should give my little boy some other than consuming it myself as he unfortunately had a course of antibiotics when he was 2 weeks old so I am worried about his little immune system. He has been putting on weight really well but had colic and bad reflux. Seems much better no. He is also on a probiotic supplement but I just wondered if there is much else I can do or whether I should give him extra Kefir? Great article thanks

  4. Hi Donna, I don’t know if I’m being dumb here but did you give your daughter raw goats milk with kefir added instead of formula? Due to a number of problems, my milk supply dried up at 4.5 months and little one isn’t tolerating conventional formula and hates hypoallergenic formula so looking for an alternative. He is on a few solids.

    Thanks!

  5. Hi Donna,
    I have a 5 month old baby. He suffers from eczema, milk intolerance, reflux and had a course of antibiotics a month ago due to an ear infection.
    I started giving him coconut milk kefir, one spoonful mixed with water 3 times a day. This has triggered the eczema on his face. He has got a rash around his mouth and on his stomach.
    Could you please tell me if there is another way I can give kefir to my baby without having this reaction. Is this normal to develop a rash after having kefir?

    • It can be a detox reaction as the skin is a powerful detoxifer and kefir will start to kill yeasts and pathogens and then they have to exit the body in some way. Is he allergic to the coconut milk?

  6. Donna, thank you so much for writing about this.
    I have been enjoying cultured foods since my early childhood, especially dairy. I grew up in Germany. We always got fresh dairy from a farmer the next village over, and my father made kefir and cheese and a Swedish kind of soured milk which I absolutely loved drinking with a straw directly from the earthen fermentation vessel when I was little.
    I have always been exceptionally healthy, save for a time in my life when I thought it was a good idea to be vegan, and as a result, cultured foods played a minor role in my life or practically disappeared, which eventually led to a very badly functioning immune system, my hair falling out, depression, constant cold sores, and recurring yeast infections.
    I have since picked up my regular diet again, my health is back to normal.
    I had a wonderful pregnancy and birth with my first daughter, who is also very healthy and only sees a doctor for normal check-ups and shots.
    However, I just gave birth to a little boy a few weeks ago who was 7 weeks premature, most likely due to an injury to the placenta. He was otherwise perfectly healthy and knew how to nurse and everything, and I recovered at lightning speed, having taken my faithful kefir culture to the hospital with me.
    In any case, he received antibiotics for the first couple of days of his life, until his blood culture came back negative, and now he is supposed to be put on an iron supplement. Here is where I have a question for you.
    The supplement I bought today contains all kinds of nasty stuff, such as artificial flavours, so I’m really not happy about that.
    Furthermore, I’m concerned that I’ll end up feeding the harmful bacteria in his immature little gut by supplying them with iron, and all of this while we don’t know if he’ll even get anemic (he isn’t right now).
    Did you give your baby iron? What’s your take on it?
    Do you think I could feed him kefir made from breastmilk (I have ample amounts in the freezer) at this early age, to boost the beneficial bacteria and minimize the likelihood of “bad” bacteria overgrowing?
    I feel overwhelmed right now with everything that’s happening to my baby, since my daughter never got any supplements, was a peaceful unmedicated homebirth, and I’m myself alien to all of this.
    I’d really appreciate your opinion on this, and I apologize for having written such a ridiculously long comment!

    • I never gave my baby iron and I would just take lots of kefir myself and it will come through the breast milk. Don’t worry they scare you to death when you have a premature infant but kids recovery really fast and you eat lots of cultured foods and prebiotics too and your baby will get it from your milk.

  7. I just made my second batch of water kefir! I choose the water since my 5 month old baby is lactose sensitive.. How much would you recommend I put in his bottle? Should I just give it once a day, or twice? Thanks!

  8. I’m new to this and have a 10 month old who is constantly sick. I’m not quite ready to make my own kefir so will store bought help?

  9. Hi Donna,
    Have you made milk kefir from expressed breast milk? What are your thoughts on this? I have been having home made organic milk kefir for well over a year, and am now six months pregnant.
    I am keen not to introduce dairy products into my new born’s diet (although i understand milk kefir is much easier digested than milk) and wonder if 1) the good bacteria he will get through my breast milk will be enough or 2) i could use expressed breastmilk to make the kefir for him.
    I have a feeling you used goats milk? but i am not the biggest fan.
    Thanks, and looking forward to your thoughts.

  10. My child loves homemade milk kefir. She just turned one, and drinks about 1 cup a day. I am worried that there is alcohol in the kefir. After drinking it one day, she seemed to be falling more.. I don’t know if that is related, but I was worried she may have gotten a bit ‘drunk on kefir’ Is this even possible?? I am nervous about feeding her kefir now.

  11. Hi Donna!
    I have a question about Kefir grains…. I have been reading recently about creating kefir water and coconut water that can be used to make lemonade and iced tea. I would love to begin making this as well as milk kefir. I am wondering if the kefir grains would be the same for creating waters as it would be for creating milk kefir.
    Many thanks, and so much love for your amazing site!
    Kristen

  12. Hi Donna, I’m writing to seek help for my 2 and half year old son who is about 9.5 kilogram in weight very active is getting treating for Acid Reflux (GERD) for the past 8-9 months using PPI omeprazole.

    He is underweight and has reflux , gas , bloating , burping and very poor weight gain. I came to know about kefir from a friend who read online and just wondering if it something that can help my son. He is also constipated and our GI doctor recommended us a powder to help for his constipatiom .

    my son’s weight gain has been extremely slow after 6 months of age , the time we started him on solids. He was born small about 1.86 kg at 38 weeks , his growth during pregnancy was slow due to umbilical cords . a normal baby has 3 umbilical cords but for my son it was 2 cords so his growth was very slow.

    He was breastfed from the begining. he had always poor sleep and I remember one of the nurse practitioner told us about the possibility of silent reflux but family doctor didn’t listen and didn’t want to do anything. He was also treated with antibiotics at 3 months of age due to chest infection I’m now suspecting by giving him antibiotics we killed his good bacteria which is required for good health and digestion . subsequently we have seems dietian which didn’t help much other than following strict feed threapy .

    my son has been the poor eater and had low appetite from the beginning we used to surprised how other babies drinks/eats so much and he is not ready to eat anything and we used to do of tricks game playing to feed him.

    At 6 months when we started solid with him he liked it for first 2-3 weeks but after that he wouldn’t open his mouth we used to all sort of tricks without understanding if he is not feeling good we did ask our family doctor and dietian which think we have to keep trying. We got all bunch of blood work done and most of them came -tive andwe kept our struggle on. At 18 months we changed our family doctor to aa another doctor in the same practice who referred us to a pediatrician which did blood work gluten intolerance that came -tive and also ask us to see a therapist who visited us and by looking at my son eating and wash clothing sucking , the way he double swalloed she wrote to the doctor about the possibility of the reflux and we started on anti acid omeprazole when he was at 22 months. it seems to helped and my son got little better with eating better trying and copy his sister . it has been 8-9 months since we are giving him medicine and his weight gain is very slow and we were referred to GI pediatric for further treatment and Now his endoscopy is due next month in August 3rd week.

    Now he still has lots of gas, burps , constipation and tummy making lots of sounds, I found your blog and was hoping to share our struggle with you if there is anything you can recommend to try.

    I do feel by trying kefir for son we are going to give him lots of good active bacteria which will be good for his gut and digestion.

    I really want to make a plan to try kefir which can help him to get health digeston and subsequently help in treatment of reflux. At present he eats but it doesn’t absorb the nutrition from the food.

    We really think unless there is a piece in the tummy and have good health gut , any medicine is not going to help.

    I sincerely hope you will read my comments and share your thoughts with us and help us to treat my son to make him healthy.

    In search of answer we are ready to go anywhere .If you can please guide us how to start with kefir , quantity , now of times in a days any special symptoms to watch for. And if there is any gut cleaning required due to bad bacteria and how to do that. If there is any digestive enzymes we can give him.

    Please note we are in Ontario Canada and if there is any possibility of talking to you directly would grealy help us how to effectively treat him.

    • Hi Donna,
      Please help to treat my 2 and half year old son who is getting omeprazole for his reflux. I read at lots of places on the internet where people talk about acid reflux is due to low acid in the gut which is not enough for digestion and due to the bad gut food is not digested which cause gas, bloating, cramps and reflux by pushing the content into the esophagus and make it uncomfortable. My son is on the anti reflux medicine PPI omeprazole for almost 9 months which reduces the acid further , make it more alkaline and make the digestion more difficult.

      I would want to know you view on the kefir how it can help my son by introducing good healthy bacteria that will help in maintaining good gut which probably helps in digestion and fight infectections and also about the apple cider vinegar which lots of people talk about to brings the acid level in the body to normal which helps in food digestatuon and reflux.

      I have more details about my son health and weight gain and treatment which I can share with you and it may help you to determine give more suitable input.

      I am really hoping to hear from you so we can help my son to gain good healthy life ahead.

      Please respond back and I ha r really high hope from you.

    • This all sounds like a gut that is struggling and kefir would help him but I think he also needs some minerals too. Liquid ones you can just add to water or milk and would help him to find some balance. A few spoonfuls of milk kefir a day would be where i would start. Kids really do well on kefir and is what I did with my little one when she ws struggling and work like a charm.

      • Thanks Donna for replying back. We started milk kefir that we bought from the store , We are also trying to get kefir grains from someone so We can make kefir at home.

        Questions
        can we mix kefir with juice or something my son likes it or is it safe to mix it with any food item. Kefir I bought from store is flavoured and sugar content is really high but we are giving only 100 ml a day it’s diluted one not like the home made.

        2nd question is about the Apple cider vinegar ,
        I read online it help in restoring acid level in gut for healthy digestion ,
        Is it ok to introduce and how much and when and how it should be given ? What are you thoughts on it ?

        And last questions is it safe to say acid reflux is ALWAYS due to low acid level in stomach and if it is how to correct that ? using apple cider vinegar or something which is safe and easy for 2 year .

        Oh the last and the most important thing please recommend mineral brand , type .

        I’m really hoping it will help my son.

        Last thing to all the parents if they can share their experiences treating there little kids with acid reflux , poor growth and low weight then it can help lots of other parents like us.

        Waiting now to hear from Donna and other parents,

  13. My baby is almost 5 months old, and we have switched to so many kinds of formula because of his constant crying and fussiness. He was on Enfamil, Soy, Nutramigen, Alimentum, Gerber Soothe and Elecare. His pediatrician thinks he has a milk allergy and reflux. He was also on of medicine for reflux, gas drops and hyosone drops for stomach spasms. We even went to a GI specialist and they put him back on Alimentum and said to start feeding him cereal, fruits and veggies. The specialist also said we could stop the reflux medicine and use the drops as needed. Is my baby’s stomach and intestinal flora all messed up now from all the switches? Can adding Kefir help? My mother recommended switching his formula to homemade goats formula since he still seems to be fussy and his stool is green with Alimentum. But I thought maybe the Kefir would help before I switch his formula once again (I am also scared to try any homemade formula because I read its dangerous and if not diluted right could harm him and his kidneys). Do you think the Kefir would help with his issues? How much do I add to his formula each day? or can I spoon it with his fruits or cereal? I bought Plain Kefir today at the supermarket but wanted to see how much to add each day to his diet first. Thank you for your time, and I am anxiously waiting for a response to help my baby feel better.

    • Yes I think it would make all the difference in the world. I had a friend of a friend who adopted a crack baby who had terrible reflux and kefir fixed this childs severe refulx. I would start with a spoonful in every bottle and homemade is much more effective with this.

      • Thank you! : ) I am sure homemade is much more effective, but would the store bought be work and be ok for now? Also, do you think trying homemade goat milk formula is better too? (like the Mt. Capra recipe) Instead of commercial formula? Since none that we have tried seems to sit well with him.

  14. I have only been doing the cultures for about a month now so I am still new at all this, I have 2 questions,
    1. I would like to give my 20 month old some kefir, I have milk kefir and water kefir, which one should I give him and how much to start off with?
    2, what signs/symptoms will he have if it doesn’t agree with him or if I have given him to much will the symptoms be obvious?

    Sorry hope this makes sense, I am so worried I might make him sick or something as I am still finding my way around these cultures

    • 1. Give him milk kefir and about a spoonful once or a couple times a day.
      2. He’s pretty young and they have pretty clean guts so i might make him have loser bowels but other than that he should be fine. You won’t make him sick, it will make him have a stronger gut and immune system and give him a really good foundation. Kids and animals do the best with cultured foods right from the get go. Don’t apologize your doing things that most won’t to improve your little ones health. Good JOB!

    • How has it been going for you, seeing as how you asked this a few months ago?
      My daughter has been drinking plain milk kefir by the cupfuls since she was about 18 months old, and she’s the healthiest and sturdiest thing on the block. She LOVES kefir, also water kefir.
      How does your child like it?

  15. Hello please help, I have 2 month old twins and have had to top up there bottles with formula as I’m only producing about half there feeds by breast. I have found a great website to make your own baby formula with hall raw milk as I can’t get raw milk it says to kefir it. I have gotten organic whole milk and kefir it and the recipe basically wants u to add vit, oils and half water ect. So the kefir is watered down by half. I have been topping them up with this just started today but now wondering if I’m giving them too much. And if the milk in it is ok for this age it just has so many web sites that say not safe to give babies milk before age 1. My babies were premie born at 34 weeks. Please help thanks 🙂

  16. Hi donna, I gave both my girls (4 & 1l sauerkraut but they had a huge histamine reaction which took a month to clear. Will milk kefir cause a histamine reaction? My eldest seems ok on water kefir and im still nursing my youngest so will she be getting enough from me? (I have water kefir and sauerkraut but would like to up things)

    thank you x

    • If they are having a histamine reaction they are missing an enzyme that can easily be replaced. Diamine oxydase (DAO) is an enzyme and would greatly help them in many ways and also allow them to eat fermented food. Goggle histamine and enzymes and you will see much on this and learn a lot.

  17. I have been drinking water kefir, and I really enjoy it, but I have been adding grape juice and wonder if I’m really benefiting from it because of all the sugar that’s in juice. What are your opinions on water kefir?

    • I wrote about this in my book. If its not fermented properly than there can be to much sugar. Water kefir is my least favorite cultured drink and I still thinks it good I like kombucha better.

  18. My daughter wants to feed her 8 month old baby coconut kefir as I am reading on your website lots of good reasons to do so and have made them some. Her husband is, rightly so, concerned with what nutrients it actually has that is better than say formula? I can’t find that info anywhere. Please let us know what nutrients, besides probiotics are in the coconut kefir. Thank you so much 🙂

    • I only added kefir to milk or you can add a tbsp to formula. You only need to add a small spoonful and the benefits are many and you wouldn’t need to feed them just kefir.

  19. Donna,
    I have an almost 2 year-old that is breastfed and doing great. 🙂 However, I do have an overgrowth of candida in my body and would like to start with the protocol my N.D. suggests. I’d like to give my youngest and my other children fermented foods and eat as much as I can to get my balance back. What would you recommend?
    Thank you. 🙂

  20. My daughter is 21 months and drinks
    Kefir water, she can drink more that two cups a day. Do you think this is ok? With kefir water being made with sucanant (1/4c sucanant, 1/4c grains, and 24oz water) should I worry that she’s consuming to much sugar?

    • It just depends on how it is fermented. If it is still really sweet I would ferment longer and maybe give her less. This is my least favorite of the cultured foods and I really think that is too much for a 21 month old but it is much better than a million other drinks on the market. I would reduce it to about 1 cup a day. You have good instincts you just needed someone to tell you so.

  21. I have an 8 month old daughter. She is very healthy, as am I. I do not eat sugar, wheat, dairy, transfats, or alcohol. My diet primarily consists of: grass fed meat, fruits, veggies, and high quality omega 3s and 6s. With that said, my daughter is still below the 5th percentile in weight. (I am not eat a lot of certain types of foods, but I eat 1900 cal/day), which should give my daughter more than enough nutrients. Even though she is on the smaller side, she is tall and very strong. She is about to walk just after turning 8 months. My doctor, however, wants me to get her more foods. MY daughter has been VERY reluctant to taking a bottle or zippy cup, as well as eating baby food. She will suck on fruit, but she won’t get down mashed baby food. My family makes coconut keifir, so I thought I would try giving that to her, and she loved it! She ate about 1/4 c in total yesterday. My question is: Can babies have too much keifir and if so, what is the maximum amount? Thanks!

    • Babies can drink kefir and usually will thrive on it. My daughter was about 10 months when I started on it and under birth weight ans gianed 4 lbs in a month having about 1/2 to 3/4 cup a day of kefir. Best thing I ever did was start her on kefir.

  22. Donna, how much should I feed my 2 yr. old and how often through out the day? And how should I increase it. TIA!

    • If you are nursing it would be best to drink it yourself and milk kefir is much better for children. I don’t think it would hurt to give them a small amount of water kefir.

  23. Thank you for your article. I also had several rounds of antibiotics with my second child and he has reacted to many foods that I eat. He frequently spits up and has breakouts of excema. I have been giving him an infant probiotic, Lactobacillus, which has significantly improved his spitting up and colic behavior. I have access to all-grass fed raw cow milk kefir and have been drinking it myself. As he is about 6 months old, what do you suggest starting him on food wise? Just straight kefir or mix it with something? Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you!

      • thank you for your reply. I have not been able to pump much and so I don’t have milk to put it in, but was considering adding it into sweet potatoes…? I was also wondering, the kefir that I’ve gotten has a slight yeasty taste to it which I haven’t notice in other kefirs I’ve tried…is this normal?

          • I get the raw milk at a local farm, and they make the kefir as well. I will ask if that’s what they do. I assume it’s not harmful, just affects the flavor? It’s convenient just to pick it up when I get milk, but I guess I can try making it myself. Thanks for your response.

  24. My son is 3 months old now. I had to switch to formula because no matter what I did, I could not produce enough milk. I was wondering if putting kefir in formula would be ok? He does not seem to be getting enough nutriants through the formula.

  25. As a probiotics researcher, I often get asked by people if is a good idea to feed probiotics to babies. Your blog is very interesting and I am wholeheartedly in favour of probiotics! However, for people with a family history of Type I diabetes, I think it is worth mentioning that caution may be warranted in giving babies cow’s milk kefir. The probiotic bacteria break down the lactose in the milk, but not the proteins. Cow’s milk proteins have been known to cross into the blood stream in young infants (their intestinal barriers are not completely formed and so they can have a “leaky gut”) and there is a theory that these proteins contribute to the development of Type I diabetes. The immune system mounts a response to these foreign milk proteins. However, the cells that produce insulin have surface proteins that are very similar in structure and the theory is that these are mistaken by the immune system for cow’s milk proteins and destroyed. That being said, I think it is very important to build a healthy microbiome in infants — moms should consume as wide a variety of fermented foods as possible (including kefir) during pregnancy and after, then breast feed for as long as possible. Once babies are over a year old, milk kefir is probably fine… and in Donna’s case it definitely appears to have helped her preemie… but some babies may be more susceptible to Type I diabetes than others. Just something to keep in mind as you build your baby’s health microbiome!

    • Thank you for this reply and I do want to add that type one diabetes is very prevalent in my family, my sister got it at ten and my niece at age seven, but known of my children have it. We are very susceptible to this disease and it always concerned me greatly. There are many theory’s about this and the list is exhaustive and I wish with all my heart that I knew the answer to why the people I love have this disease. None of them had cultured foods nor did their mothers and I often wonder what would have happened if they did. I do believe that gut health is of utmost important at birth and throughout life and if others would like further study on this there is a great deal of research about this and the new breed of cows we have bred into our milk supply. They are saying it isn’t the dairy but the type of cow that produces the dairy. A1 and A2 Cows here is more about this if you are interested. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/07/09/the-devil-in-the-milk.aspx

  26. I have been giving the pro biotic BioGaia to my 6 mo/old son all along. (He has reflux and is getting liquid Zantac as well.) Will kefir take away the need for the BioGaia?

  27. Great article Donna! How old was your baby when you started introducing a small amount of kefir? Do you think that you can do it too early, or is it the earlier the better? I don’t want to start before he is ready but then again it may help his colic/wind . He was 5 weeks preemie, and is now 5 weeks old. I have read Russian women give babies some kefir from 4 months.

  28. I am wanting to make yogurt using my breastmilk. It is wonderful how our bodies give such a spectrum of bacteria to our little sprouts. my question is, since human milk is already so probiotic, does it culture more quickly, or does it become more concentrated than other animals’ milk? My 5 month old is quite eager to participate at mealtime, and this seems like a gentle way to try a fun new texture and mode of delivery…..and ps in response to the above baby-feeding debate: Every situation is unique. As mothers, we do the best we know how. There are many different ways to foster healthy growth in our children, and we are all united in that cause–no matter how our paths vary 🙂 Thank you to Donna for creating such a wonderful body of information!!

    • what a good idea u have there !! did u make the breast milk kefir with good susses? please can u share with us your story ?
      you think i can use kefir powder ?

      regards

  29. I drank kefir while I was pregnant, and then stopped for a few months at the end of the pregnancy and the beginning of the infant stage. I have introduced kefir back into my diet, but I am finding that it affect my 3 month old negatively. Every time I drink it, he throws up a lot, and screams in pain. Should I stop drinking it?

  30. Great article! And I really enjoy your website, too 🙂 You mentioned you do mostly raw milk for kefir. When you first started out and were giving it to your baby, was that raw milk as well? I ask because I’ve been using pasteurized organic whole milk for almost a year. I’ve considered switching to raw milk, but it is very expensive and hard to get where I live. Just wondering what your experience has been and if you did transition from pasteurized to raw at some point.
    Thanks,
    Karen

    • In the beginning all my kefir was made with pasteurized milk and then I switched to raw and all of it work great. That’s the amazing thing about kefir it works to make even pasteurized milk good.

  31. Thank you, Donna for all the wonderful information you share. I agree that breastfeeding is a wonderful practice and for more reasons than just the excellent nutrition. But I also agree with Donna if the mother is not healthy her milk may not necessarily be a perfect food. When I was an infant I almost died of malnutrition because my mother’s milk was devoid of nutrients and my mother was not a vegan. If it were not for an elderly aunt who recognized the problem I would not be here to tell this story.

  32. How do you get toddlers to like the taste? Any ideas of what to mix with the kefir to make it better? I tried the coconut water kefir and it was terrible…

    • you can also just blend it with banana…
      also, i have a super super picky preschooler and i mix in some in his yops (since he won’t drink my smoothies) and he doesn’t even notice… and he is usually very perceptive if his food is altered…

  33. Hi Donna, I love your blog and all of its great information. I cannot wait for your book to come out, I’m disappointed that I have to wait until October!! I have a question. I make cultured veggies using just a salt/water combo and letting them ferment for 5-7 days on the counter. Now once I have eaten all the veggies, should I save that juice and use it as a base for the next jar? I feel bad dumping out all of that good liquid! Sometimes I drizzle it over my salads but I still end up throwing out most of it.

    What type of milk do you use to make milk kefir? Raw, organic, whole? OK that’s all the questions for now, keep up the great work, I love reading your posts, you just seem like such a genuine good person, I wish I could meet you in real life!

    • Hi Hannah,
      Yes you can reuse the juice but it will have less good bacteria so I only use it a couple times.
      You can use any kind of milk to make kefir but I use raw most of the time. It all works great.
      Thanks for the kind words and I wish I could meet everybody who writes me letters and posts on my blog. It means a lot to me that people take the time to read the things I write and make my recipes. It’s a big old world but having a place to connect to one another makes it seem just a little smaller and much warmer.

  34. I recently started drinking water kefir but noticed that it gave me stomach ache and my breasted baby has been quite unsettled, is this normal?

      • I have a 4 months old baby ho seems have MSPI soy/milk intolerance
        witch kind will u recomment me to give her milk mabe with breastmilk? or water kefir ?

        I live in india and seems hard or me to find fresh grains here, do u have experience with dehydrated grains ?
        thankful for ur post !!!

        regards

  35. I wish I had known this 30+ years ago. Shared to FB….thank you for this great article.

  36. “She did better on kefir than she did nursing from me because I wasn’t healthy.”

    I fundamentally disagree. Breastmilk is best for babies.

    • Absolutely – breastmilk is best.

      However, breastmilk quality very much depends on the health of the mother.

      • Actually, that is not true. Breastmilk quality has been shown to be quite consistent despite the mother’s diet (the exception being that vegan moms who don’t eat fermented foods can lack enough B vitamins). Human milk is perfect for human babies, and the subtle message you are sending is that if moms don’t have a healthy diet, they shouldn’t breastfeed. Human milk is far superior to any cultured product, or goats milk, or formula. It is the perfect food.

        • I understand what you are saying Angela and thank you for your post. I think nursing is the best milk for infants, and making sure that the mother is healthy is so important too. My little one did not thrive as she should have with just nursing and without kefir it was very hard on her and me. I wound up with diabetes and high blood pressure and I was nursing and trying my very best to help her and didn’t know why things were getting worse and worse. When she quit nursing, much to my horror, I was forced to find something for her and it made things even worse then they were. Nursing was always a better choice than just any milk. When I found kefir and even though I wasn’t nursing anymore the kefir alone turned her life around and mine. If the mom can drink kefir and nurse her child this is the best situation or giving the child kefir in another form of milk is another option too, which is what I did and transformed us both. If she would have stayed nursing I would have never found all of this. It changed her and me and that was my path and I have seen it help so many others. I feel your passion about this and I am glad you feel that way because so few do care about doing the best for their child. We are really on the same team here. Mom’s and babies are powerful team. Thank you for sharing your heart and thoughts.

  37. I did not think of kefir but I was drinking fermented drinks (Kefir and Kombucha Tea) then so maybe my nursing was OK. My Naturopathic Dr said it was OK to give 2 tbsp of Kombucha Tea to my daughter at 6 months. She has never been vaccinated and drinks (loves) K-tea. If she ever got a cold, it would be gone in 12-24 hours at the most. Last time, she threw up, I gave her K-tea and nothing after that. No throwing up, no fever, not even sniffles. She has the best immunity system out of all of us.

    • Your breastmilk would be more than “ok” whether or not you were consuming fermented or cultured foods while breastfeeding (of course, consuming cultured foods is a good thing to do). Human milk is a living food, and it is complete nutrition.

      • Angela, I agree whole-heartedly with you that breastmilk is the best thing to feed your baby. I have two children, and both did not have ANYTHING other than breastmilk for the first five months, and then were sustained primarily on breastmilk until they were two years old. They are not two years apart, so I tandem nursed. However, I feel the need to inform you that if the mother’s body is not processing proteins properly, your own baby can be intolerant to your milk. This happened to me in both cases, resulting in me having to eat a dairy free, gluten free diet, and take digestive enzymes all the time, and still struggled with colic (both my children have a list of food sensitivities). I have since started eating cultured foods on a regular basis, and am expecting my third child now, with great hopes that my dear baby #3 will be able to not only tolerate, but thrive on my milk, without me having to watch every bite that crosses my lips.
        It is very disheartening for mothers like me to hear “Your breastmilk would be more than “ok” whether or not you were consuming fermented or cultured foods while breastfeeding” and other comments with such sentiment because yes, breast-feeding is the way to go, but why isn’t it working for me? I have found my path, but many others have not. Watch that your whole-heartedness does not step on others’ hearts. I appreciate your advocacy, though.

        • Hi Rachel, thanks for you comment. I am currently breast feeding my 8mo on a dairy free, gluten free, egg free, nut free, and soy free diet, as she can’t to,erate the proteins through my milk. It’s tough. Her food intolerances are so severe she can’t have any solids yet to date. I have recently started drinking, gradually, some kefir. I’m desperately hoping if I heal my gut I can help hers. She can’t tolerate even elemental formula so it’s our only option.
          Good luck with your #3, if only I knew the power of a good maternal gut before I was pregnant.

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