7 Ways to Support a Newborn’s Microbiome
The topics of gut health and the microbiome have been at the forefront of wellness recently, and for good reason. We are each covered in bacteria — trillions of microbes. In fact, about three pounds of our body weight is made up of those microbes.
The balance, or imbalance, of bacteria in your gut is called dysbiosis. This mix of good and bad bacteria living within us often influence how and when we get sick. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the diversity of our gut is directly linked to the strength of our immune system and overall wellness.
So, how does this relate to a newborn microbiome?
Prior to conception, the health and wellness, including the microbiomes, of both parents are important and influential. In utero, babies are in a safe environment, where the placenta is the diligent gatekeeper and the mother’s health and wellness offers protection. At birth, a baby will pass through the birth canal and immediately start to lay down the foundation and develop their own gut flora, which is the beginning of their microbiome and immune support. All of this is the initial development of the baby’s microbiome and could absolutely be elaborated upon. In fact, there are many books and blogs and articles out there today!
For the sake of simplicity, how can we support a newborn microbiome to ensure our little ones have a lush and thriving rainforest of a gut early in life? We want to share 7 things you can do to support your newborn’s microbiome.
- Vaginal delivery when possible
The first major microbial colonization happens at birth. Babies are exposed to 18 different strains of bacteria during a vaginal delivery and over 400 strains if fecal matter is present. Studies have shown that there are significantly different flora present on those individuals born via vaginal birth as compared to a cesarean birth.
When a cesarean birth is necessary and unavoidable (my firstborn was a C-section), vaginal swabbing is becoming more and more accepted. Although it still comes with many unknowns, the intent is to still expose your baby to some of the microbes they’d be covered in coming out of the birth canal. If you’d like to explore this option, ask your healthcare provider early on if it’s something they offer in their practice.
Breastmilk is best. Breastmilk adapts and evolves based on the newborn’s needs. Breastmilk enhances the health of baby and mother. Studies have revealed that breastfed babies have a significant reduction in risk for acute otitis media (ear infections, nonspecific gastroenteritis, severe lower respiratory tract infections, atopic dermatitis, asthma, obesity, diabetes, SIDS, and enterocolitis (NEC). For mothers, there is a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer and type 2 diabetes. Checkout the book The Big Let Down.
- Avoid Antibiotics When Possible
Did you know the average American child has 20 rounds of antibiotics before age 18? Antibiotics completely nuke a newborn’s microbiome, killing off good and bad bacteria alike. For infants, this usually presents itself in the form of recurrent ear infections. Get to a chiropractor ASAP. Occasionally, antibiotics will be necessary, but be a scrutinizing patient and see what other alternative options are available before jumping to antibiotics as a go-to. And if you do use antibiotics, you will need to show the microbiome some love afterwards through pre and probiotics.
- Eat Organic Produce and Grassfed Meats
This goes for both breastfeeding individuals and babies. Try choosing organic when starting your little one on solids. Pesticides destroy the good bacteria in the gut and are a huge culprit in causing dysbiosis. If money is tight, refer to the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” to see which fruits and veggies are most important to select organic. If it’s within the budget, choose grassfed meats. The good news is that some of the most nutritious cuts of meat are also the cheapest (hello organ meats). You are what you eat but you are also what your food ate!
- Eliminate Endocrine Disruptors
These are often found in our cosmetics and cleaning products (checkout Branch Basics). These are known to wreak havoc on our microbiomes. Many manufacturers have caught on to the demand for cleaner and safer products and will often tout “SLS and paraben-free” on the front of the bottle, but it’s best to read the full ingredient list for yourself. Additional culprits include fragrances (perfume), aluminum chloride, ethanol, ethylene glycol, talc, phenoxyethanol, and others that are usually lurking in there. See if a product passes muster in the Think Dirty app before purchasing.
- Avoid Meds for Reflux
Babies who have reflux are often prescribed Zantac, which is an anti-reflux drug that works by killing off stomach acid the newborn microbiome needs for burning off the bad bacteria. Low stomach acid levels make it impossible to fully absorb nutrients as effectively and can’t kill off the bad bacteria, viruses, and fungi that are not supposed to be there. This is another one to get to the chiropractor. Also try giving smaller, more frequent feedings and keeping the baby upright a little longer. For new mamas, hang in there. The spit-up gets better each month as the digestive tract starts to develop and mature.
- Infant Probiotics
Prenatal & Postpartum Health Counseling
BIRTHFIT Leader@oliviabarvin www.rootandriseHTX.com
- The Big Let Down by Kimberly Seals Allers
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