We literally pass bacterial heirlooms from our ancestors on to our children. We send along the good, the bad and the ugly. Thankfully we can also rebuild or rewrite the negatives with positives by what we eat and don't eat. I thought I would be able to knock out this article quick but upon researching and connecting all the points I realized this is a heavy topic. When looking to remove training wheels, always think about why they are there in the first place. The training wheels metaphorically speaking is the route we lay out for our children to have a healthy start in life. And by route, in this case, I'm speaking about priming baby's digestive system by giving them the foundation and protection needed to combat the many foreign bacteria, pathogens and toxins they will surely encounter into adulthood.
I hope to at least lightly touch on baby gut development, the impact of natural birth and cesarean on baby's immune system and breastfeeding contribute to the overall health of baby's gut into their adulthood. Because there has been much research in the area of gut health and the ever so present epidemic in diseases in America, this may be something we should be looking closer at.
Disclaimer: Please note, this article is simply to provide you with the studies to better inform you. This is by far a place for judgement. I completely understand there are mothers who had to to do what they had to do but I also understand there are mothers who would have done it differently if they had been otherwise informed.
“All disease begins in the gut.” – Hippocrates
Baby's Undeveloped Gut
So in interest to keep it based on scientific studies and thorough, let's begin with the importance of understanding the development of a newborn baby's digestion. If you have been blessed to give birth naturally and/or time to breastfeed your baby or babies, congratulations! You have been able to prime their undeveloped guts with a great diversity of microbiota. The gut microbiota, or gut microbiome, refers to the community of 100 trillion plus microbial cells that live in the digestive tract. This starter set of bacteria is one of mama's first gifts to her new baby. The gut microbiota establishes itself over the next few years, and, on the whole, it will then stay with the person for life.
At birth, children have no microbes in their gut, but colonization happens as soon as they are born. Even the smallest quantity of of anything other than breast milk can quickly change the coding of a baby's virgin gut and upset their gut flora before it has had time to fully mature. Unfortunately, that can lead to lifelong consequences such as asthma, eczema, allergies, diabetes, etc...which is why many scientists and experts suggest exclusive breastfeeding up to six months of age.
Natural Birth Impact
During natural birth, through labour and delivery, baby starts swallowing bacteria in the birth canal and from the rectum. The bacteria travel through the stomach and the small and large intestines and multiply over the first few weeks of life to establish a pretty diverse microbiota.
All Birthing Methods have Effects
The type of bacteria of the gut of an emergency c-section baby is different and a planned c-section baby has a different gut flora altogether due to different environmental factors. Babies delivered via C-section surgery get their first dose of microbes from their mothers’ skin and the skin of doctors, nurses and any other bacteria, pathogens and toxins in the delivery room.
Researchers worry that because C-section infants don’t get the bacteria their mothers evolved to give them, it will set these children on the road to poor development as well as wide open for invaders that a fresh gut is not equip yet to fend off.
Development of healthy gut microbiota can have a lifelong effect on health, and early intervention in the establishment of that microbiota could have lifelong positive effects: The early establishment of bifidobacteria has been shown to be associated with improved immune response to vaccines, development of the infants' immature immune system, and protection against pathogens.
"The study results center on the microbiome, the mix of bacterial species that live on human skin and in our guts, and that co-evolved with humans to play roles in digestion, metabolism and immunity. As rates of children's exposure to C-sections, antibiotic use, and formula feeding have increased in recent decades, the incidence of asthma, autoimmune diseases and obesity has more than doubled."-study led by researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center and published June 15 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Microbiomes of Preemies and C-Sections
"The microbiomes of children born by C-section look less mature than those delivered vaginally, said Dr. Martin Blaser, a professor at NYU who headed the second study. Even if their microbiomes do eventually catch up, “there’s still a period of time when the microbiome is not maturing at the same rate as the baby,” he said."
"The microbes in the gut of a premature infant change radically from day 10 and days 16-21, as indicated by the colored bars keyed to different microbial groups. Even day to day, the relative proportions of microbes shifts, and probably continues to change as the baby encounters new environments, people and pets."
“You need the microbiome to develop normally and educate the immune system in the gut to respond to these microbes and also prevent other harmful bugs from getting in.”-Xavier, chief of the gastrointestinal unit at Massachusetts General Hospital.
It could be argued that infants born by c-section need breastmilk even more than infants born vaginally. Initiating breastfeeding soon after delivery is encouraged and can help colonize baby's gut with microbiota which may have higher success in closing the gap of gut development presented from c-sections.
"A 2010 study published in Birth found that cesarean delivery has negative effects on breastfeeding. The study included 677 newborns delivered by c-section and 1,496 delivered vaginally. Researchers found that breastfeeding prevalence in the delivery room was significantly higher after vaginal delivery compared with that after c-secion delivery. This may be because mothers have to wait a longer period of time after surgery to initiate breastfeeding."-draxe
Breastfeeding is one way mothers can help invest in their child's health as well as bond with their baby. In the article Breast Milk is AMAZING by Angela Garbes it even discusses how a mother's body detects pathogens and then produces antibodies to fight it!
"According to Hinde, when a baby suckles at its mother's breast, a vacuum is created. Within that vacuum, the infant's saliva is sucked back into the mother's nipple, where receptors in her mammary gland read its signals. This "baby spit backwash," as she delightfully describes it, contains information about the baby's immune status. Everything scientists know about physiology indicates that baby spit backwash is one of the ways that breast milk adjusts its immunological composition. If the mammary gland receptors detect the presence of pathogens, they compel the mother's body to produce antibodies to fight it, and those antibodies travel through breast milk back into the baby's body, where they target the infection.At the same time that it is medicine, breast milk is a private conversation between mother and child. While my daughter lacks words, breast-feeding makes it possible for her to tell me exactly what she needs. The messages we are sending each other are literally made of ourselves, and they tell us about what is going on in our lives at that very moment."-Angela Grabs
So what can we take away from all this compelling information? Well, here's what I got:
Although a baby is born, she is still not yet developed a mature digestive system.
How a baby is born has a lot to do with baby's immune system.
Breast Feeding is excellent health insurance.
Hope this helps you in your journey to understanding the wonderful design of our heritage as humans. Please comment below if you have any ideas, suggestions or questions. I love hearing from you all!
Hi, I'm Melissa I want you to gain back your confidence & energy in the way you think, speak and act through life-giving decisions. Health is an excellent way to exercise stewardship for the service of others.