Let’s be honest, looking at your child’s poo probably doesn’t rank as one of your most glamorous parenting jobs, but from a health perspective, it sure is one of the most important! Our bowel movements act like daily report cards for our health and paying attention to your little one’s poo is one of the best ways for you to keep an eye on their health and wellbeing.

Over the last few years, gut health has become a hot topic…and with good reason! Research has shown that the gut is your classic multitasker (and sometimes a bit of an over-achiever!) lending a hand with pretty much everything from maintaining a healthy weight, your child’s behaviour and mood, concentration and learning ability, how well they fight off infections and practically everything in between!

What exactly do we mean by gut health?

If you’ve ever googled ‘gut health’ chances are many of the articles you find will refer to the microbiome and the ‘bugs’ or balance of bacteria that live there. Most of the time what these articles are actually referring to are the bugs that live in the large intestine. But the gut is so much more than that! In our clinic, we prefer to look at the gut as one big long series of pipes that extend all the way from the mouth through to the anus. This means we’re also interested in the health of the mouth and teeth, the stomach, the stomach acid, the small and large intestine, along with the health and integrity of the membranes and other substances that they secrete.

So how do we best support our kid’s gut health? Here are my top tips!

  1. Look at their poo…every day

Like I said, not the most glamorous job, but getting familiar with your kid’s poos can really help you keep an eye on things. We’re aiming for long sausage-like poos that they can pass easily and clean with 1 – 2 wipes. Their poos shouldn’t be soft and mushy, nor should they be hard and pellet-like. A one-off every now and again isn’t usually a problem, but if you’re noticing your kids poos have changed recently or have never been well formed, we suggest chatting with a health professional. Common things that can contribute to less-than-optimal poos are:

  • Dehydration
  • Food intolerances
  • Bacterial imbalances or gut infections like worms and parasites.
  • Dysbiosis (the fancy way we say imbalance of bugs in the microbiome) which may be caused from antibiotics.
  • Stress, anxiety, mood disturbances (and vice versa! The gut plays a huge role in our mental health so if you’ve started seeing behaviour that is out of the ordinary or suddenly different, this might be worth investigating)


  1. Let them play in the dirt and go easy on the hand sanitiser

Yes, you read that right! Kids need to play in the dirt and get exposed to a whole heap of different bugs to help strengthen their microbiome. So why should you just dust them off rather than douse them in sanitiser? A large proportion of our immune system lives within our gut and by exposing our kids to a variety of bugs in their environment, helps train their immune system to be better equipped to deal with all the things we might come into contact with later. That being said, if your child has come into contact with something you find suspicious or are unsure about, please ensure that you seek the appropriate medical advice as soon as possible.

  1. Get them a pet (or let them play with someone else’s)

Like playing in the dirt, children who play with pets, especially dogs, are more likely to have a greater variety and diversity of bacteria within their microbiome. This has been associated with lower risk of allergies, especially eczema and asthma. A study that looked at over 7000 households found that having a dog during the first 2 years of that child’s life lowered the child’s risk of allergies and this seemed to be particularly important for children that were born via caesarean. Time to add a fury friend to your family??

  1. Breastfeed if you can, for as long as you can

Breastfeeding is one of the most powerful ways you can support your child’s gut so doing it for as long as you can (or want to), will help to build a health gut and immune system. If this is not for you, or you haven’t been able to, or you have a child that didn’t receive breast milk for at least 6 months, it might be worth while chatting to an experienced practitioner who can help you decide on the right type of probiotic to help provide some additional support for their gut, especially if they are still young…and just as a heads up, it’s not a one size fits all approach so speak with someone who knows what they are talking about rather than just grabbing a ‘children’s probiotic’ from the supermarket or chemist.

  1. Avoid antibiotics as much as you can

There are times when antibiotics are unavoidable and absolutely necessary, but antibiotics can be one of the biggest disruptors to our gut. There is evidence to suggest that the microbiome can be affected by antibiotics for up to 2 years after a single dose of antibiotics, and this can have lifelong effects to the type and the amount of bugs growing in our gut.

If antibiotics are unavoidable, we suggest getting in touch with an experienced gut-health professional who can guide you through the necessary steps to help with restoration post antibiotics. Again, it’s not as simple as popping a probiotic, but this is a good place to start. As a general rule of thumb, we like to do a month of regeneration for every course of antibiotics (but if there has been repeats, or the use of particularly strong antibiotic, or if your baby was a pre-term bub) we might need to do things for a bit longer.

  1. Don’t let their bugs go hungry!

You know how cranky your child gets if they get hungry? Well, the same thing happens with their gut-bugs! These bugs love fibre-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and pulses, so if your child isn’t really eating these foods, here are some ways you can sneak them in:

  • Grate up veggies (or puree them if they are super fussy with textures) and add them to pasta sauces or meat balls.
  • Add more ‘plain’ veggies to baked goods – zucchini, bok choy and carrot work particularly well!
  • Get your kids into smoothies – This is also an easy way to sneak in some extra green veggies! And don’t be put off by the colour – try and think of creative ways to ‘sell it’ to your child. I distinctly remember one mum who used to tell her 3-year-old son that it was his Ninja Turtle Juice – worked a treat!

Our gut lining should have a nice, thick layer of mucus over it which serves to protect the lining and keep our bugs happy! When they get cross or hungry, they actually start to eat away at this layer! (Yes, our bugs literally start eating us!) One of the things that helps support a healthy mucous membrane is getting enough collagen. You could add this in as a supplement on occasions, or you could start adding in bone broth to your child’s diet. Making this yourself is super easy (this is how I do mine) and if they aren’t fussed on drinking it like a soup, use it to cook grains (like rice) as opposed to water, or stir it through mashed veggies, pasta or other sauces.

  1. Dig a little deeper when there is an imbalance.

If your child has been given a ‘gut diagnosis’ I believe it’s also important to dig a little deeper. Things like reflux, constipation, colic etc. are common childhood problems, but they are not normal. There are a number of investigative tests we can do around this to get a good idea of what might be at the centre of these issues, so get in touch with a gut specialist if this is something you have been noticing.


Obtaining, maintaining and focusing on the development of your child’s gut is an ongoing process and one that often requires little tweaks and changes along the way. But doing a few things early on in their little lives can help set them up for a lifetime of health and wellness…one poo at a time!

(As featured on The Baby Vine)