There is an explosion of research and information reported in the media about how gut health affects our health. Not only our digestive heath but our long term cognitive health, our sleep, our moods and emotions, how much weight we carry and even what foods we choose to eat.
This can get overwhelming especially when it comes to this bundle of joy you have just bought home from the hospital.
Babies gut health starts long before your baby is born. How healthy mum’s microbiome and gut bacteria is plays an important role in how bubs will be. Whether or not you and your partner do 4-6 months of preconception care before getting pregnant can also make a difference. Within this 4-6 months cleaning up your diet, eating a large range of fruit and vegetables to feed your good bacteria, so your gut and digestive function is working optimally, finding any food intolerance’s, health issues or heavy metals and treating to ensure your baby has a relatively clean slate to begin with. At this time if you suffer from allergies or eczema its an opportunity to break the cycle for your baby.
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The next part of the journey is how the baby is delivered. Was the baby a vaginal delivery or a C- section? It was thought that the placenta was a sterile environment but we now know that bacteria is found in the amniotic fluid, in cord blood and in the placenta.
As the baby moves through the birth canal they start populating their microbiome then with skin to skin contact and immediate breast feeding from their mother they are teeming with bacteria.
We know that babies born via C-section have different bacteria. They are not exposed to the same sorts of microbes as a vaginally delivered baby. Generally they are more predisposed to the bacteria that is in the hospital room, on the gowns and the doctors and nurses.This can make babies more susceptible to infections such as Clostridium difficile and staphylococcal infections which are common in hospitals. Studies have shown that babies born via C- section have a higher risk for obesity, diabetes, asthma, allergies, eczema and immune conditions later in life. There is currently a practice of seeding being clinically trialled and done in some hospitals. They take a gauze and place inside the mothers vagina and when the baby is born via C section they wipe the baby’s face and body with the gauze. It increases the levels of beneficial bacteria that would otherwise be missed.
Our core microbiome and gut bacteria is established in the first few weeks of life and then becomes an adult microbiome when children are three years old. In this time we want to nurture and enhance our children microbiome as much as we can.
What can you do to improve babies gut health?
- Breast feed if you can for twelve months or beyond. This has the correct nutrition for new babies to enhance their bacteria.
- Watch your nutrition- what happens in your baby’s microbiome is a direct correlation with what you are eating.
- Stay away from antibiotics for as long as you can. Some childhood illnesses especially viral infections like ear infections don’t respond to antibiotics. Antibiotics can decimate gut bacteria and completely wipe out species and for others it can take up to 4 years for them to re-populate so best to use wisely.
- Make sure your house is not super clean and use Earth friendly products. The bacteria in your home exposes your children to germs and primes their immune system to be able to deal with them. Constant cleanliness stops them from getting this exposure and tends to make them more allergic.
- Get a pet- especially a dog as most babies exposed to dogs and dog hair are likely to suffer less from eczema and food allergies.
- As they grow let them play outside in the dirt and mud as this again is excellent for developing immune system.
- Probiotics before pregnancy and during breast feeding are ways to enhance your babies intake of microbes. Look for Lactobaccilus and Bifidobacteria species. These are the best known gut species and the ones we start out with.
Remember our microbiome is set by the time we are 3 years old so start by doing as many things that benefit our babies developing gut. If things haven’t gone as you planned don’t despair by improving the quality of your food and improving the environment with some of the tips listed above you can certainly get things back on track.
Do you have any tips on how to improve babies gut health? Share below!
Angela Sinclair, founder of Digestive Detective is a Naturopath, Nutritionist and Herbalist. She has a special interest in Digestive Disorders. She helps you beat the bloat, purge your pain and find the root cause of your problem using nutrition, herbal medicine and supplements.