If you have been reading my blog for a while you know that I am fascinated by the emerging research on the microbiome. Here is a recently released book titled, Your Baby’s Microbiome The Critical Role of Vaginal Birth and Breastfeeding for Lifelong Health. Need I say more?
The authors are not microbiologists. Rather, they are the film makers of a documentary called Microbirth. This book is based on the 3 years of research they did for the film. The book includes excerpts from interviews they conducted with 12 leading researchers in the field of the microbiome.
Interviews with Microbiome Experts
I was fascinated by the interviews with all the experts.
Additionally, each chapter has a QR code linking to a short video that was edited specifically for readers of the book. Wow! I never used this before but if I could do it – so can you. You have to simply download a a QR code reader app (you can see the directions for this on page 14).
Or, you can simply enter the URLs from page 162 into your browser to view the videos.
Here are links to 3 of the short, informative videos. Check them out!
I did this and watched several videos, so far, and they are so interesting! I love to see the person who does the research speak – they are as geeked out as I am about the microbiome! This is a fantastic bonus that comes with the book!
Another aspect of the book I love is that there are chapter summaries at the end of each chapter if you are pressed for time. The biological terms are explained in simple language for the layperson – anyone can understand the book.
The book is highly referenced.
The Research on Pregnancy
Research shows that during pregnancy the vaginal microbiome changes to accommodate more species of lactobacilli.
The birth process is the main seeding event that can shape the developing gut flora of the infant and child.
A vaginal birth exposes the infant to bacteria from the mother’s vagina, colon and skin. Through the breaking of the amniotic sac (waters breaking) the infant is coated with bacteria in the eyes, ears, nose and mouth.
This is a good thing.
All these exposures from birth and later through contact with caregivers, air and feeding help to colonize the baby’s gut.
The Effects of Cesarean Section on the Baby’s Microbiome
In the event of Cesarean section, the baby will get exposure to bacteria from the air in the birthing room and from contact with the people around – not much from the mother. There will be no exposure to the various microbiomes of the mother without travel through the birth canal.
Researchers want to know how this will affect the health of the baby down the road. There have not been studies on the long term impact of Cesarean section on the health of the child/adult.
However, it is speculated that there will be a long term effect and it is not good. Dr. Maria Dominguez-Bello is researching a swab-seeding technique for babies born through Cesarean section. Results so far indicate that this could be a good way to restore a baby’s microbiome from the start.
The Effects of Breastfeeding on the Baby’s Microbiome
Interestingly, the lactobacilli that seed the baby from the birth canal, are the very same bacteria needed to breakdown the lactose in the breast milk. These same lactobacilli help breakdown other carbohydrates in breast milk that are indigestible by the baby – in other words the lactobacilli feed the gut bacteria of the infant as prebiotics.
The bacteria also start to train the baby’s immune system. This is critical to the start of a good, balanced immune response. Gut bacteria train the baby’s immune system to identify friendly versus foreign molecules – this is the basis for the development of a tolerant and balanced immune response.
Solutions to Our Anti-Bacterial Society
The book talks about solutions if you had to have a Cesarean section and/or have not breast fed. Conventional medicine (and food companies) still push formula feeding. It is really critical that soon-to-be parents think long and hard about what impact this has on the baby.
This new research is showing that both Cesarean section and formula feeding may have a long term negative impact because of the effect on the baby’s microbiome.
Of course, sometimes Cesarean section and formula feeding are unavoidable. In these cases, there are some emerging techniques that can remediate these interventions.
Anyone who is thinking about pregnancy or knows someone thinking about pregnancy should read this book and pass it along to the parents-to-be. It’s interesting, easy to read and is another step towards preparing the child for good health.