Healthy Babies Start with a Healthy Microbiome
ByJoanne Aponte, ND •April 11, 2023
The health of our microbiome is essential for overall wellness and prevention of chronic diseases. Our microbiome is the makeup of microorganisms that live on and in our body including our mouths, digestive tract and skin. And this microbiome develops while our babies are still in utero!!
Imbalances of the microbiome are associated with a long list of chronic health issues that develop as we age. And for young children and infants, are associated with the common childhood health issues such as colic, asthma, allergies and skin rashes like eczema. Click here to learn more about health conditions related to microbiome problems.
We want to start our babies and children off on the right track to give them the best chance of living a long healthy life. Since the microbiome is largely set in place before the age of 3 years old, it is essential to start our little ones out right!
Where does a baby’s microbiome come from?
We used to think that the baby received its microbiome and bacteria when traveling through the vaginal vault at birth. But now we are seeing that the baby’s microbiome is already developing in utero!
This is good news for those of us who’ve had Cesarian sections. We used to think infants born through C-section would have less healthy microbiomes and higher risk of childhood and adult chronic illnesses. However, now we are seeing that the microbiome has already largely developed during utero. The research also shows that labor is what’s important. Infants of women who labored before they had a C-section had identical microbiomes to infants born from a vaginal birth. So Mom, the important thing is to labor and try as long as you can before proceeding with a C-Section.
The current research shows that the baby’s microbiome is primarily seeded by the mom’s placenta. And the microbiome of the placenta mirrors the microbiome of the mothers mouth! So taking care of your oral health before and during pregnancy is so important.
The other key factor in development of a baby’s microbiome is the diet of the Mom in the 3rd trimester. Yes our diets matter in the 1st and 2nd trimester, but its’ the 3rd trimester that is most important. This is also great news, because if you are like me, it was hard to eat healthy in the 1st trimester with all the nausea and food aversions.
What can I do to help my baby develop a healthy microbiome?
- Moms – take care of your oral health before conception and during pregnancy. See the dentist regularly and address any issues such as oral infections and gingivitis. Click here to read about things you can do to improve your oral microbiome.
- Eat a microbiome healthy diet especially in your 2nd and 3rd trimesters. When your little ones start to eat solid foods, be sure to include these healthy high fiber foods from that list.
- Wait to wash your baby for 5 days after birth if possible. It is best to leave the vernix in place for the 1st week of life. The Vernix is the covering on the skin surface of a newborn baby. It is a factor in the baby’s development of innate immunity and is protective against infection.
- Breastfeed your baby for at least 1 year, and ideally 2 years. This is one of the most important things you can do to support your baby’s microbiome. And if you are having trouble breastfeeding, small amounts of breastmilk are better than none and will still provide much benefit. So do what you can, even if it’s only a couple ounces of breastmilk per day.
- Spend lots of snuggle time with your baby with skin on skin contact.
- Avoid antibiotics especially in children under age 5. Antibiotics can be very problematic for some children. The microbiome does not always bounce back and long term issues can develop. If your child does need to take an antibiotic I recommend giving probiotics during and after the course of treatment. Prebiotics such as FOS and GOS are also key players in helping the microbiome recover.
One more thing to point out – it is not necessary to give every infant probiotics. If the infant is breastfed and has no signs of microbiome imbalances, breast feeding and introduction of solid foods high in fiber should be all that’s needed.
If you plan to have children or are currently pregnant, it’s not a bad idea to address your microbiome issues. Your baby is going to start off with your bacteria so let’s set them up for success. Click here to learn about microbiome imbalances and Dysbiosis and how to know if this is something you should address.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.