We all know that our intestines are home to millions of bacteria, which are responsible for processing the food we eat and making it possible for it to be absorbed into our bodies. However, did you know that babies get these bacteria while they are still in their mother’s wombs? While their bodies don’t need to process food in the same way that they do when they’re fully born, the exposure to this bacteria is actually a good thing!
How Babies are Affected by Their Mother’s Gut Flora
Doctors used to believe that the baby’s gut was sterile before birth – only being exposed to gut flora once they were born. However, recent studies have shown that the bacteria start to take root in the baby’s gut before birth. The baby often swallows amniotic fluid, and this fluid contains some of the microbes that live in the mother’s intestines. The microbes make their home in the baby’s intestines, but they are unable to spread until the baby is born.
Most of the gut flora colonize the intestines during the actual process of giving birth. The infant is exposed to a significant amount of bacteria as they pass through the birth canal, and it is believed that a lot of the bacteria from the mother’s body are able to take root in the baby’s body during the birth. All of the organisms living in the mother’s vagina (birth canal) will coat the baby’s body, and will usually end up lining his or her intestinal tract.
While this may sound bad, the truth is that it is essential in order for the baby to be healthy. The baby’s gut needs this flora, as the breast milk that they will begin to drink will need to be digested. Without the gut flora, the milk would remain undigested and unbroken down, so there would be no way for the baby’s body to absorb it. The milk would simply pass through the intestines and out the waste disposal exit.
This means, therefore, that the bacteria to which the baby is exposed will affect the health of the baby. Many pregnant women suffer from bacterial or yeast infections, as a result of high hormone levels. If the infections are still prevalent when the baby is born, the baby will be exposed to these pathogens – which could possibly lead to health problems.
The Type of Delivery Does Matter
The method of delivering the baby definitely matters, at least when it comes to the colonization of the baby’s body by the gut flora. Babies born through normal vaginal delivery are exposed to all of the bacteria that their body needs for digestion, but babies that are born via Cesarean section are not exposed to the same amount of bacteria. They tend to have lower numbers of both Bacteroides and Bifidobacteria – two very important types of gut flora that are essential for healthy digestion. When babies are born without these bacteria, the immune system tends to attack them – meaning it takes longer for the body to adapt to the presence of these healthy bacteria.
Babies that are delivered via C-section will often have imbalanced gut flora for up to 6 months of age, while babies delivered through natural childbirth will only take 1 month for their gut flora to balance out. This is actually very significant, as the baby’s immune system begins to develop during these early months. Without sufficient bacteria, the immune system may not be able to fully develop, and may end up weak and powerless against a number of diseases.
How is Baby Fed?
Many mothers that give birth via C-section are unable to begin nursing immediately, as their bodies have not yet undergone the hormonal shift that occurs during childbirth. It may take a few days for the milk to start being produced.
On top of that, the mothers delivering via C-section are usually given antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection, so they may be passing on those antibiotics to their child when they do start breastfeeding. During those first few days of the infant’s life, they may have to feed the child formula – nowhere near as nourishing as breast milk!
Breastfeeding babies has proven to be the best way to give their bodies a chance to adapt to their environments. Babies that are breastfed tend to have much stronger immune systems, as the bacteria from their mother’s bodies are passed into their bodies via the mother’s milk ducts and skin. This bacteria is necessary to colonize the baby’s intestines, which will ensure that the baby can start digesting and absorbing the food properly from a very young age.
For babies that are bottle-fed, the type of bacteria that passes into their body is totally different – and often harmful. The bacteria that grow on the outside and inside of baby bottles is often the wrong kind of bacteria, and could have a negative impact on baby’s overall health. Feeding a newborn baby via a bottle can expose them to bacterial infections from such a young age, which is why bottles need to be sterilized with each use. However, this means that the infant won’t be exposed to any bacteria, so there is no way for their intestines to be colonized with gut flora.
While manufacturers of baby formula are trying to add probiotics and prebiotics into their formulas to make them better for the babies, they still fall short when compared to breast milk. For parents that want to give their child a chance at a healthy life, it’s essential to go the breastfeeding route.
The Importance of Taking Probiotics During Pregnancy
Taking probiotics during the stages of pregnancy is very important, and it can help to prevent a significant number of diseases – which result from a lack of healthy gut flora.
Remember that baby’s first dose of the bacteria is absorbed via the amniotic fluid while the child is still in the womb, so having plenty of healthy bacteria in your body is the key to passing on the gut flora baby needs. Women that take probiotics reduce the risk that their child will develop allergies, which gives the baby a better chance of being healthy without suffering from negative reactions to common allergens – peanuts, lactose, gluten, etc. Eczema is common among babies, but it’s a sign that the child will be allergic to many things later in life.
More than just the positive benefits of probiotics, however, it’s the negative impact of a lack of friendly gut flora that should give parents pause. If the mother’s body is full of unfriendly flora (bacterial or yeast infections), that flora is passed on to the child during the pregnancy and birth. This will cause the babies to be predisposed to GAPS – Gut and Psychology Syndrome.
GAPS can be a serious problem, as it means that the baby will be more likely to develop not just more allergies – of which eczema is a marker – but also learning disabilities, autism, and a range of other digestive, neurological, immunological, and even psychological problems.
Children born without gut flora are more likely to come down with diseases, but they are also more likely to suffer from damage as a result of vaccines. Some children have been known to develop autism after being vaccinated, and it is believed that a lack of intestinal flora – and thus a poorly developed immune system – contributes to the problem.
Autism can often develop in children that have normal sensory organs and brains, but who lack the proper intestinal flora. Their digestive system actually becomes a source of toxicity, as their body ends up attacking the bacteria that is designed to keep them healthy. All of the toxins and microbes in their intestines end up flooding into their body, as the microbes are able to damage the gut walls. These microbes and toxins are able to enter the child’s brain, potentially leading to autism.
Breastfeeding, on the other hand, basically eliminates this problem. Thanks to the colonization of the gut by the mother’s bacteria – passed through her milk – the microbes and toxins are eliminated by the gut flora. There is no damage to the intestinal walls, and no toxins or microbes are spread. Breastfeeding protects the child from autism.
Why Feed Probiotics To Your Child
Studies have proven that feeding probiotics to an infant is a good way to ensure that their intestines are filled with the beneficial gut flora. Raw, organic, grass-fed yoghurt is one of the best things that infants can eat, and it isn’t too hard on their stomachs – especially once they get a bit older. It will help to colonize their intestines with the healthy bacteria that will ensure their immune system develops properly, and will prevent allergies from forming at a young age.
Once children are able to digest food properly, parents can move on to foods like natto (fermented soy beans), kimchi (fermented cabbage), kefir (fermented raw milk), sauerkraut (pickled cabbage), and other probiotic foods.
What Can You Do Before Conception and During Pregnancy?
As a mother, taking a probiotic is an easy and convenient way to bolster your own gut flora. HealthRight’s ND Probiotic Plus is a wonderful non-dairy and vegetarian source of probiotics, containing 8 strains of healthy bacteria, as well as a prebiotic. It is available exclusively on Amazon, at http://www.Amazon.com/shops/HealthRightNaturals.
This article and these statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This article is intended for education purposes only and this product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.