Babies are a universal symbol for Joy and New Beginnings. It can be very exciting when one receives news of a bundle of joy on the way. And for the expecting mother, that can also be a time of sudden conscious awareness of the health of your body in order to bring this tiny seed of a human through an uncomplicated and healthy full gestation, labor, birth, and of course beyond into childhood. What many health researchers are finding is that the lack of diversity in our gut microbiome may be strongly linked to the growing numbers of those being diagnosed with allergies, eczema, and asthma, among several other conditions, while taking an even closer look at babies and children.
SO WHAT IS A MICROBIOME?
It is a colony of 100 trillion microorganisms, mostly bacteria and yeasts, that live directly inside of our digestive tract, skin, respiratory pathways, and genitalia. When this collective ecology is in BALANCE, the overall health of the immune system, detoxification pathways, intestinal nutrient absorption, and brain function functions appropriately to moderate levels stress, with the occasional high-stress moments. An individual with a healthy and balanced microbiome feels clear-headed and focused, energized, and is overall a motivated person with a passion for life. When the microbiome is OUT OF BALANCE, this influences the body’s immune and stress response to be on high-alert, which can lead to diagnosis of inflammatory conditions, obesity, diabetes, hormonal problems, anxiety and depression.
We receive our initial inoculation, under ideal circumstances, at birth as we descend through the vaginal canal and through breastfeeding, skin to skin with the mother immediately after. In a perfect world, the mother will have been supporting her body before conception in ways that promote optimal wellness and a healthy balance of microorganisms, even inside her vaginal canal. Nowadays, it’s a little more complicated for many women to really keep their bodies healthy in this way without a quality understanding of WHY keeping our microbiome healthy and balanced is so important to shifting the direction of illness in our world today.
“Antibiotics and an obsession to sterilize our environments have resulted in a significant rise in gut-related illnesses and pressure on the medical community to finally explore this long-ignored aspect of human biology.”
SO HOW CAN I SUPPORT MY BODY AND PREGNANCY?
Well to bring health and balance to our microbiomes, we must provide our intestinal tract with the strains of beneficial microorganisms that we know, through much on-going research, to be crucial to a healthy functioning immune system, detoxification pathways, hormone stress responses, and neurological wellness. Two of the most beneficial strains of bacteria found in a healthy and balanced gut are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, while two of most beneficial strains to a woman’s vagina and infant gut inoculation are Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri. It is becoming more commonly recommended as new research trickles down into the medical community, that all women who are pregnant take a probiotic with a wide variety of the aforementioned species, including the specific two strains Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri, AT LEAST through the Third Trimester. Doing so has been shown to lower the risk of women testing positive for Group B Strep (Streptococcus agalactiae) or GBS for short, during pregnancy leading to a higher likelihood of receiving an IV antibiotic during labor to prevent infection in the newborn.
Other ways women can support their bodies and babies through pregnancy, is to eat a diet low in refined sugars and processed foods (refined flour products and baked goods), while including more fiber from complex plant-based carbohydrates (vegetables, flax and chia seeds) and lacto-fermented veggies along with a high-quality probiotic supplement.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS FOR PREGNANCY AND BABY?
When an imbalance is present, and it could have been this way for many women for most of their lives, the risk of urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and testing positive for Group B Strep, can statistically lead to preterm labor and the need for antibiotic use in pregnancy and labor. Early exposure to antibiotics in babies from birth through the first 2 years can lead to an increased risk of developing allergies, eczema, and asthma, which is why it’s super important to take what you know FROM THIS MOMENT and make the best choices for you, your baby, and your specific circumstances.
HOW CAN I SUPPORT MY BABY’S MICROBIOME AFTER BIRTH?
It is ideal for a baby to be born through an uncomplicated natural vaginal birth but we all know that sometimes there are unplanned circumstances that cause us mothers to make the best decision we possibly could with what we knew then. So if you can take action now before or during your pregnancy to take a probiotic, eat cultured and lacto-fermented foods, reduce consumption of processed foods and excess sugars, avoid OTC vaginal products, and do your best to decline antibiotics, unless medically necessary to avoid pre-term labor and severe infection. Also planning to have a doula and/or midwife to help you through labor and delivery can decrease the possibility for labor induction and reduce risk of Cesarean section giving your baby the best possible start for a healthy gut and immune system.
Once the baby bundle is born, breastfeeding is the first and most essential way to nourish your baby. One new study from UCLA in 2017 “found that 30 percent of the beneficial bacteria in a baby’s intestinal tract come directly from mother’s milk, and an additional 10 percent comes from skin on the mother’s breast.”
While every mother desires to give their new born babies the absolute best they can right from the beginning, it is important for women not to judge or blame themselves for making choices going against any “recommended” healthy protocol. Regardless of how mothers decide to feed their babies, breast milk or formula, adding a quality infant probiotic supplement is quite safe (approximately over 26,000 reports in medical literature) and strongly encouraged when babies had exposure to antibiotics or born by Cesarean section. Look for an infant probiotic powder that includes the beneficial strains: Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri. Some quality brands to look into are Klaire (Klaire Infant), Jarrow, NOW Foods, and Flora Udo’s.
Give baby a daily dose using one of the recommendations below:
- Express a couple tablespoons of breast milk and mix the probiotic powder together, then give to baby through an eye dropper while nursing, or…
- Mix the probiotic powder into the bottle of breast milk or formula, do not add before heating if heating needed, wait until the milk or formula has cooled to a tepid temperature.
- Another way, is to take a single dose of powder and put it into a clean dish, and with your clean pinky finger, dip the fingertip into the powder and allow baby to suck it off of your finger until the entire dose is given. DO NOT PUT YOUR FINGER into the jar of probiotics or you could damage the strains.
It is recommended to begin days after birth through at least the first 6 months of life. For good measure, it might be suggested that the mother continue to take her own high-quality probiotic supplement with many strains of the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species.
For those who have to have a cesarean section, look into the newest procedure showing some promise for those with no other options called “Vaginal Swabbing” also referred to as “Microbiome Seeding”.
For those who would like to improve the balance and quality of their children’s microbiome, who may or may not have had rounds of antibiotics and various other medical treatments and procedures in their first few years of life, I personally recommend checking out Healthiest Kids University for natural solutions and remedies.
One More Thing…
The information provided in this article is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any medical or health diagnosis or condition. The information here is to give you a jumping off point to seek more information about what matters most to you. I am in no way condoning anyone’s choices as parents and mothers and caregivers, I fully support and encourage all of us to step into the conversation surrounding our health and wellness in the United States. The current state of health and our growing epidemics, such as allergies, obesity, asthma, and diabetes, really need to be more in the hands and control of each individual and family. I believe with more knowledge and access to cutting edge alternative research, we can shift from a sick and tired society to one that is vibrant and energized. It starts with our children. And it starts NOW. When we invest in the health of our children, we invest in the future of humanity.
I would love to read your comments or help answer any questions, feel free to share below!