By SP Turgon
The latest news in baby world is the discovery and importance of the microbiome (micro-BYE-ome). Though it may sound scientific and foreign, we all have one. Your microbiome bacteria is the good stuff that baby needs.
As a result, it’s a simple concept with huge importance. And you can even include it in your birth plan!
Let’s look at what it is and does for your baby.
WHAT IT IS
Our microbiome is the collection of microbes (bacteria) that live in and on our bodies. It’s formed partly from our genes and partly from our communities.
There’s an old saying that children should eat a peck of dirt from their surroundings. This ancient wisdom reflects how each of us is part of the invisible world that composes our visible one.
And we need to have some of those same components in order to be healthy.
Consequently, much of our microbiome is passed from generation to generation through maternal genes. A baby, her mother, and her grandmother have the same microbiome—unless something interrupts it.
That something is the modern anti-bacterial war.
THE GOOD AND THE BAD
Bacteria has gotten a bad rap. There are lots of good bacteria that we need And, of course, there are bad bacteria we want to keep out.
Did you know that our bodies have 10 TIMES MORE BACTERIA than cells? We want those bacteria!
These good bacteria are essential for a healthy microbiome because it creates a strong immune system.
Anti-bacterial products kill both the good and the bad bacteria. Our rampant use of products like anti-bacterial soaps and cleansers kill bacteria.
But they’re also killing our immune systems.
WHAT’S THIS MEAN TO YOUR BABY?
Scientists believe your baby receives some microbiome mix from the placenta.
During your last few months of pregnancy, your breasts and vagina are being populated with a special microbiome soup your baby will need for a healthy immune system.
When baby is born vaginally, one of the many benefits she gets is being bathed in and swallowing that microbiome soup. And if she’s placed immediately on your chest, she’s laying upon just the right bed of bacteria she needs for life.
- Type I diabetes
- Celiac’s disease
- Krohn’s disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Mental health issues
- Some cancers
VAGINAL vs. CESAREAN BIRTH
The miracle of the microbiome is that it changes toward the end of pregnancy, shortly before labor begins. Aren’t women’s bodies amazing?
As he passes through the vaginal canal, your baby’s microbiome is automatically “seeded” with mom’s bacteria. Baby’s immune system recognizes this good bacteria. And it helps protect him against most of the bad in his environment.
Cesarean birth almost removes that benefit. Baby may still have some microbiome from the amniotic fluid in which he lived. But he doesn’t get its full benefits.
If mom or baby are given antibiotics before or during delivery, the positive microbiome is even more limited.
This leaves him open to the future health issues listed above.
There’s a very narrow window at birth when baby can get this rich elixir of bacteria. And for it to set up his powerful immune system for life.
FORTUNATELY, THERE’S A WAY TO COMPENSATE
Research is being done on seeding baby’s microbiome after C-section. As a result, care providers use sterile gauze to collect mom’s vaginal fluid as soon as baby is born. Then baby’s face is immediately wiped with the gauze, giving her a hefty dose of healthy bacteria.
More research needs to be done to determine how effective it is, but so far it’s very promising.
If you have a cesarean birth, your birth plan can advocate for your baby’s health. Simply include a statement about microbiome seeding.
But many women have unexpected C-sections. So a simple statement in your birth plan can say, “In the event of a cesarean section, I want my baby immediately seeded with my microbiome.”
As a result, this one sentence will be part of your first protective actions as a parent.
Who knew that one statement in your birth plan can be the best advantage you can give your baby, from minute one?
 Hartman, T. and Wakeford, A. (2014) Microbirth [curiositystream.com]. Country of origin: Britain. Minute 15:49.
 Hartman, T. and Wakeford, A. (2014) Microbirth [curiositystream.com]. Country of origin: Britain. Minute 41:10.
To learn more about healthy birth and pregnancy, download our free Birth Plan eBook now. After three years of research, collaboration with more than 100 childbirth experts and resource centers from Healthy Child Healthy World to the American Association of Neonatal Nurses, the Best Ever Baby Birth Plan Guide is available for a free download.
This new resource for pregnant families is a compilation of top tips and advice from more than 20 nationally-recognized experts in the field including renowned pediatrician, Dr. Alan Greene and GraceFull Birthing founder, midwife Elizabeth Bachner. These trusted experts offer thoughtful guidance for whatever type of birthing experience parents want, in whichever setting they choose.
Published: January 12, 2017 | Reviewed by: The Best Ever Baby Expert Team | Last reviewed: December, 2016