The Best Kids Probiotics: 2023 Reviews
Happy tummies, happy kids. We found the top probiotics for your little one.
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Toddlers usually start with prebiotic and probiotic gummies or powders, and then once they are comfortable swallowing them, they graduate to tablets or capsules. But which ones are the best!?
Below are the top 5 prebiotics and probiotics we found, followed by in-depth reviews.
|#1. Hyperbiotics PRO-Kids|
|#2. SmartyPants Kids Probiotics|
|#3. LoveBug Tiny Tummies|
|#4. LoveBug Little Ones|
|#5. Culturelle Kids Purely Probiotics|
Research shows many benefits of prebiotics and probiotics for kids' gut function and health. However, note that any statements regarding prebiotics or probiotics have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition. Furthermore, always ask your child's pediatrician before beginning any supplement.
We conducted hands-on tests of over a dozen different probiotic supplements, including tablets, capsules, gummies, and powders. We tested them in vitro (with dairy cultures), in ourselves, and with our own children. We were mainly interested in their ingredients, whether they tended to cause stomach upset, what combination of prebiotics and/or probiotics were used, how many colony forming units (CFUs) were present, and how they were encapsulated and released.
In general, if you are going to start a toddler or big kid on probiotics, we recommend considering gummies or powders until they are ready to swallow a tablet or capsule on their own. That usually happens around age 4-5. Once they are ready, an encapsulated probiotic will generally provide more comprehensive blend of prebiotics and probiotics, and better-timed release and survivability (in the gut) than a gummy or powder. That said, if you're looking for an easier and more natural way to get your child consuming probiotics, you might want to try out daily yogurt or yogurt drinks (some kids love Kefir)!
- Top 5 Kids Probiotics Comparison Table
- 1. Best Overall: Hyperbiotics PRO-Kids
- 2. SmartyPants Kids Probiotics
- 3. LoveBug Tiny Tummies Probiotics
- 4. LoveBug Little Ones Probiotics
- 5. Culturelle Kids Purely Probiotics
- 6. Garden of Life Kids Probiotics
- 7. RenewLife Ultimate Flora
- 8. Rainbow Light Gummies
- Things to Consider
- Science on Benefits of Probiotics
- Getting Kids to Take Probiotics
- Prebiotics vs Probiotics
Full disclosure: Some of these kids probiotics, including the ones from Lovebug and SmartyPants, were sent to us as free test samples by the manufacturer.
Here are the Best Kids Probiotics of 2023!
These are an awesome, great-tasting, all-natural, and tiny pill-based supplement that kids can swallow more easily than regular pills or capsules. It's the overall best kid probiotic of the year for several reasons. The pills themselves (called "pearls") are about the size of a green pea. Hyperbiotics uses a patented BIO-Tract preparation technique that time-releases the prebiotics and probiotics to prevent stomach acid from destroying them before reaching lower areas of the GI tract. They claim that this technique increases the body's absorption by about 15 times relative to what you get with a traditional capsule. These are all natural, no GMOs, vegetarian, lactose free, no nuts, no soy, no sugar, and nothing artificial. They also do not need to be refrigerated, but should be used within 1-2 months of opening.
Each pearl contains 25mg of prebiotic FOS, and 3 billion CFU (colony forming units) of probiotics (including L plantarum, L acidophilus, B infantis, and B lactis). In our tests with a 4 and 6 year old, the 4 year old seemed to bite it once then swallow, and the 6 year old ended up swallowing it without biting. Neither complained about taste, and the 4 year old said it tasted sweet. No tummy aches or any other gastrointestinal issues to report, and both kids had relatively regular and soft stools after about a week of daily use. These are awesome little pearls that pack a probiotic punch, highly recommended! The only con is that they are a bit pricey. A bottle contains 60 pearls, and the best price we could find was about 33 cents per pearl online. We think it's worth it! Interested? You can check out the Hyperbiotics PRO-Kids probiotics here.
It's challenging to find a gummy prebiotic and probiotic blend that provides stable and absorbable nutrients, has high CFUs, and tastes good enough to avoid a morning struggle! For kids who aren't quite ready to swallow a tablet, and parents who realize that some probiotic powder gets wasted in a drink (and can be a pain to prepare!), gummies may be the perfect solution. As you may know, SmartyPants makes some of the best prenatal vitamins available, and recently introduced these delicious kids gummy probiotics onto the market - and parents and kids have been loving them! Available in three flavors - strawberry, grape, and strawberry creme, these gummies taste surprisingly great. Each serving of 2 gummies contains both prebiotics and probiotics. For prebiotics, a serving contains 70mg of baker's yeast extract, and for probiotics a serving has 4 billion total CFUs: 3 billion CFU of Bacillus Subtilis DE111, and 1 billion CFU of Bacillus Coagulans LactoSpore. The gummy itself is made with organic cane sugar and tapioca syrup, and natural colors and flavors. While the sugar might concern you, each gummy only contains about 1.5 mg of sugar. To be honest, we prefer using actual sugar to any alternative or artificial sweeteners because it leaves less aftertaste, and we know much more about the long-term implications.
We tested the SmartyPants Kids Probiotics on ourselves and 4 different kids ranging in age from 2 to 12. We thought the taste was simple and underwhelming, and the gummy was easy to chew and swallow. Three of the four kids also loved the gummies, though one of them said it was too sweet; he's also the kid that skips dessert, so that wasn't surprising! Daily probiotics can help kids stay regular, reduce diarrhea and constipation, and help boost the immune system, and these are no exception. For kids with any allergies or sensitivities, these gummies do not contain any milk, wheat, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts, or fish allergens. For price, these gummies come in at about 26 cents each; given that a serving size is 2 gummies, that's about 50 cents per day. That's more expensive than the PRO-Kids Probiotics but about the same price as most powdered kids probiotics. Overall, we think these gummy probiotics are a great first probiotic for kids who aren't ready to swallow a tablet or capsule, have a great prebiotic and probiotic blend with high CFUs, and taste great! Interested? You can check out the SmartyPants Kids Probiotics here.
This is definitely the best powdered probiotic option on the market. It has the most CFUs of active probiotics on this list, coming in at 15 billion active cultures! If you're keeping score, that's about 5 times as many CFUs than the LoveBug pearls (below). That's a lot of probiotic! The truth of the matter is that with a powder or gummy, much of the probiotic content is broken down by stomach acids before it gets a chance to be absorbed by the gut. So this high CFU content will compensate for some of that loss. It has 8 different strains of probiotics in it, including B. Lactis, B. Infantis, B. Longum, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Lactobacillus gasseri, and Lactobacillus reuteri. So that's a ton of great strains, many of which have been demonstrated to be beneficial for gastrointestinal comfort, regularity, immune function, skin health, and even mental health and well-being. To complement that 8-strain probiotic punch, it also contains the prebiotic fructooligosaccharides to help absorption. The only other ingredient is silica, which helps keep the powder from caking together into clumps.
The first time our 3 year old tried this, he reported a mild tummy ache, but we note that he doesn't typically take probiotics. By his second dose (day 2) he was completely fine. By the second week, he bowel movements were very regular, a (pre-existing) rash on his upper arms had gone away, and we were looking forward to fewer colds during the upcoming winter! We tried the powder ourselves as well, mixed in with water, OJ, and apple juice. In all cases, it was basically tasteless and odorless. Don't mix with milk or it will curdle, like most probiotics, unless the milk is consumed within about 10 minutes of mixing; and don't mix it with something warm or hot, as it will harm the active cultures. These are gluten and sugar free, and non-GMO. The packets are easy to transport, don't require refrigeration, and you're contributing to a small business based in NYC. They are, however, a bit expensive (about 30 cents each) but it might be worth the added cost to ensure you're getting a high CFU even without swallowing a pill. Interested? You can check out the LoveBug Tiny Tummies Probiotic Powder here.
These are very similar to the PRO-Kids pearls, but newer to the market. The LoveBug priobiotics use the same patented BIO-Tract process, and are available as a tiny (6 mm diameter) sphere that looks exactly the same as the PRO-Kids option. This isn't entirely surprising given that they're using the same manufacturing techniques to achieve a slow time-released probiotic. There are five priobiotics in this blend, including L. Plantarum, L. Rhamnosus, B. Lactis, B. Infantis, and L. Reuteri. It also includes the Fructooligosaccharides prebiotic (25mg of FOS) which is supposed to help with absorption of the probiotics. At the time of manufacturing, there are 3 billion CFUs, and they predict 1 billion CFUs available at expiration date. These are all natural, no GMOs, vegetarian, gluten free, lactose free, no nuts, no soy, no sugar, and nothing artificial. They do use stevia to prevent a bad taste in the mouth before swallowing. They also do not need to be refrigerated, but should be used within 1-2 months of opening.
The batch we received from Amazon had an expiration date about 7 months after purchase. In our testing, these were just like the PRO-Kids, though both test kids were able to swallow them without any issues, and both said it tasted sweet. None reported any tummy upset, and when we tried it (we doubled the dose for ourselves), we didn't have any stomach upset either. Overall, these are another excellent option for the tiny pearls that pack a serious probiotic punch! About the same price as the PRO-Kids. Interested? You can check out the LoveBug Little Ones Probiotics here.
Culturelle introduced the first widely-available probiotic packets nearly two decades ago and they have remained highly popular ever since. Simple to mix into your child's favorite drink or water, each packet contains 5 billion CFUs of Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG, which is a highly researched probiotic with several demonstrated gut benefits. In addition to the probiotic, the packets also contain mannitol, inulin, silicon dioxide, sucrose, maltodextrin, and sodium ascorbate. These aren't the best ingredients in the world, especially in comparison to some of the relatively natural and organic options on this list. Mannitol is a sugar alcohol, inulin is a prebiotic, silicon dioxide is an anti-caking agent, sucrose is a sugar, maltodextrin is a thickening starch, and sodium ascorbate is vitamin C and adds a slightly salty and tart flavor. Intended for use by toddlers and children over 1 year old, the packets do not contain gluten, dairy or lactose, artificial colors or preservatives, yeast, or soy.
In our testing, the powder mixed well into cool water and milk, and we also sprinkled it into organic baby foods like oatmeal and purees without any issues. The flavor was very minimal, and none of our test children showed any sign of being turned off by it. We wondered about the survivability of the probiotics when consumed this way, especially in terms of how many actually reach relatively deep into the intestinal tract (and some is inevitably left in the cup). That concern was alleviated when two of the kids who tried it, one 14 months and one 18 months, both developed much more regular bowel movements after about 2 weeks of use. We didn't see any difference in the 3 year old who tried it. Overall, we think this is a great kids probiotic with a couple limitations to consider. We wish it had more prebiotic or at least revealed to the consumer how much inulin was actually in a packet. We also don't appreciate the other ingredients included, especially the mannitol, silicon dioxide, and maltodextrin. Not terrible, but also not as simple as the LoveBug powder packets. Interested? You can check out the Culturelle Kids Purely Probiotics Packets here.
Garden of Life has been making a range of probiotic options for decades, and people love that they're USDA Organic certified, Non-GMO Project verified, vegetarian, and free of gluten, dairy, soy, and added sugars. They do not explicitly say kosher on the label, but there is no gelatin used (for what it's worth). These chewable tablets are about the size of a Mentos candy (if you remember those!). If not, they're about the diameter of a penny and very thick, and come in three flavors - berry cherry, strawberry banana, and watermelon. Each chewable has a total of 5 billion CFU of probiotics, including 9 varieties of lactobacillus (acidophilus, gasseri, paracasei, plantarum, casei, brevis, rhamnosus, salivarus, bulgaricus), and 5 varieties of bifidobacterium (lactis, breve, infantis, bifidum, langum). These are combined with the prebiotic acacia fiber, and a few vitamins: alma emblic fruit extract and cranberry (vitamin C), and vitamin D. Together, this makes for one of the most diverse prebiotic and probiotic blends available for kids. The tablets are shelf-stable so no refrigeration is required. The manufacturer says 1 tablet per day for ages 4 and up. We tried it with a 3 year old and 5 year old. Both were perfectly fine with the strawberry banana flavor, and commented that it tasted like a smoothie, but not as yummy! After a week of daily use, neither experienced and tummy distress, but they did get a little sick of the flavor and chalky texture. One of the chewable tablets was broken up in the bottle and made a bit of dusty tablet debris on the bottom (at about 50 cents each, it was a little annoying to have any waste). Outside of that, we think this is a great option for kids who aren't ready to swallow a pill but are old enough to enjoy a chewable fruity tablet. We weren't thrilled with the flavor or texture, and it seems like some tablets can be broken during shipping. We also aren't confident about absorption of the 5 billion CFU and wonder how much of that goes to waste during digestion. Interested? You can check out the Garden of Life Chewable Kids Probiotics here.
This kids gummy chewable probiotic was released last year and we tested it over the past 3 months, in our 2 year old and 6 year old. These chewable tablets contain 3 billion guaranteed live cultures in each tablet, consisting of 6 different probiotic strains (lactobicillus acidophilus, bacillus coagulans, bifidobacterium lactis, bifidobacterium breve, lactobacillus salivarius, and lactobacillus plantarum). It also contains Xylitol as a sweetener, some preservatives and binders (stearic acid, citric acid, magnesium stearate), and some natural fruit juice flavors. Overall, the ingredient profile is pretty good (sugar free, gluten free, dairy free), though we prefer not have the sugar alcohol as a sweetener. Also, it doesn't contain any prebiotics to help absorption of probiotics, so that's a little unfortunate. When we tried the chewable probiotic tablets, we found the taste to be just fine - nothing too yummy, but also no strange off-putting flavors that sent us or our kids running for the hills! We appreciated the attempt at a fruity flavor, though our older child would definitely have preferred bubble gum or something less natural tasting! No strong after-tastes or burps. The good news is that these probiotics work really well, and our only wish was that we had started them sooner! We saw a reduction of mild tummy problems, more regular bowel movements that were generally easier to get moving, and we also noticed that common colds and other little viruses seemed to be shorter-lived after a few months of this probiotic. Spurious correlation? Maybe, but it's worth mentioning. Like all probiotic gummies, these need to be stored at room temperature (below about 75 degrees) or in the refrigerator. That's for two reasons: first, once the packaging is opened, the cooler temperatures will help reduce the breakdown of the probiotics, and second, leaving gummies in warm temperatures can cause them to melt together into a giant sticky ball. The cost is a bit on the higher side for these, coming in at about 37 cents per tablet. Overall, this is a great chewable probiotic option for kids, with only some minor set-backs, including the mediocre taste, lack of prebiotics, and the use of Xylitol as a sweetener.
Here is another awesome option for kids who won't swallow large capsules or parents who don't want to spend time mixing powders into drinks and foods. These little gummy chews are great tasting and kids love them; we tested them on our 4 and 6 year olds and they were always asking for more. Great tasting and less than 1 gram of sugar to get that flavor. All natural just like the PRO-Kids, with nothing artificial and no common allergens (nuts, dairy, eggs, soy, gluten, fish, shellfish). Each gummy chew contains 500 million CFU of probiotics (L sporogenes) along with prebiotics inulin and FOS to aid in absorption. As you've probably noticed, that CFU level is much lower than what you get from the PRO-Kids pearls. Another con is that these need to be stored at room temperature or colder; if you're getting them shipped to a hot area of the country (Arizona, Florida, etc), you may arrive with a melted glob of gummy mess. That's rare, but it happens. We live in Massachusetts so our shipment was just fine. These are also a bit less expensive than the PRO-Kids pearls or LoveBugs, coming in at about 25 cents per gummy, though you're getting much less probiotic with this option.
How to Pick a Kids Probiotic and Prebiotic Blend
What the Science Says
Recently a team of medical scientists from UNC Chapel Hill found several benefits for kids who consumed a yogurt drink containing several key prebiotics and probiotics, including Inulin, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and Bifidobacterium lactis (BB12).
For 3 months, 76 kids drink the yogurt drink every day, and 73 other kids drank a placebo drink. Kids who drank yogurt drink showed several advantages. First, they showed reduced days of sickness and reported fever. Second, they showed improved social functioning: they got along better with other kids, were less likely to be teased, were more confident in their abilities, and were better able to keep up with other kids. Finally, they also showed improved school functioning: it was easier to pay attention in class, keep up with school work, and they were less likely to forget things and miss school. This is in addition to all the benefits that have been reported in previous studies, like reduced obesity, gut health, reduced eczema, reduced colic, etc. The authors did find one little possible drawback of probiotic consumption: the kids tended to poop more often, and the poop was sometimes loose (is 'poop' the technical term?).
Overall, the authors found improved health, social functioning, and school quality of life for kids who consumed the yogurt drink. The one side effect seemed to be more frequent pooping, for better or worse. This paper was published in the highly ranked Journal of Pediatrics.
Getting your Kids to Consume Probiotics
As parents, we can deal with our kids pooping more than once every couple days, and we've never actually noted any increased frequency of bowel movements with probiotic consumption (but that's just our experience).
Sometimes getting kids to consume probiotics regularly is difficult. Of course, not all kids like yogurt, some kids have allergies to dairy products, and not all parents want to bother with refrigerating and ice-packing yogurts for lunch.
Fortunately there are other more convenient options that offer excellent probiotic content. Outside of simply eating yogurt, there are two primary ways to get probiotics into your kid's diet: supplements and yogurt drinks (scroll down to see the yogurt drinks section).
Prebiotic and Probiotic Supplements. There are several excellent supplements available online, in several different forms. There are the traditional capsules (pills) that kids can swallow, if you have an older or really brave kiddo. Even better for toddlers are the tiny pearls made by LoveBug Little Ones and Hyperbiotics in their PRO-Kids supplement, or the gummies made by Rainbow Light in their Probiolicious supplement. These pearls use the patented BIO-Tract technology (patent held by Nutraceutics) to protect priobiotics from gastric acid during digestion. Rather than allowing the acids in your stomach to harm the probiotic's effectiveness, it provides a protective control layer to slowly time the release and maximize the number of live organisms reaching the stomach.
You can also buy a powder so you don't need to mess with the capsules, which is especially useful for younger babies and more timid children. The powder is nearly flavorless and odorless, so you can readily mix it into anything you'd like. We've put it into drinks (smoothies, juices, milk), desserts (homemade popsicles), and even foods (mac 'n cheese, oatmeal). Of course, this doesn't provide the layer of protection that you'll see with the BIO-Tract coated pearls, but if it's the only way to get your child to take the probiotics, it's definitely worthwhile.