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Getting a Good Gut

Why Baby’s Microbiome Matters

Inside everyone’s intestinal tract is a world teeming with life. Trillions of microbes, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, live and function within the gut. This microscopic world is the microbiome - and it’s the key to developing a healthy future.

Building from the beginning

Right from conception, baby’s microbiome is developing. At birth, microbes are passed from mom to bub, colonizing the baby’s gut with its first major group of bacteria.

A baby born vaginally receives microbes from mom’s vagina and gut, which are important for early microbiome health. A baby born via cesarean section has fewer microbes transferred from mom. Early skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding also provide further ‘seeding’ of mom’s microbes.

Research suggests changes to mom’s microbiome during pregnancy may support this early transfer of microbiomes.

A healthy, diverse microbiome—one that has lots of helpful bacteria in the right amounts—is important for good health. It supports good brain function, a strong immune system, and may lower the risk of developing conditions such as asthma, eczema, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.

Upsetting the balance

While the medical community is still learning about what makes up a healthy microbiome, we know there are a few ways early in life baby’s microbiome can get off to a rocky start:

    • Increase in cesarean section births. This disrupts the normal transfer of vaginal and gut microbes from mom to baby.
    • Decrease in breastfeeding rates. Breastfed babies benefit from probiotics and prebiotics in breast milk.
    • Antibiotic use during pregnancy and early in life. Antibiotics kill certain bad bacteria but also wipe out many good bacteria. This allows bad gut bacteria more room to grow and unbalances the microbiome.
    • Trying to have a “germ-free” home. Many bacteria are our allies not enemies, and early exposure can help build immunity.
    • Offering sweet or nutrient-poor first foods. The first 6 months of introducing solids is critical for developing baby’s food preferences as well as establishing a healthy microbiome. Vegetables are fantastic for bub as they’re nutrient-dense and packed with prebiotics to support good gut health; as are fermented dairy products (such as yoghurt, a natural source of probiotics), and whole grains. A healthy microbiome does not thrive in a diet of high sugar, high acid (apple paste), or highly processed foods.

How can this affect baby?

A healthy microbiome helps the body digest and metabolize food. For baby, this means good early growth, and long-term may decrease the risk of developing intestinal diseases, obesity, and diabetes.

The gut also supports the developing immune system. Most immune cells are inside the gut and it’s thought an unbalanced microbiome - one with an increase in bad gut microbes - may increase baby’s risk of autoimmune conditions such as asthma, eczema, and allergies. As baby gets older, their risk of other immune-related diseases may increase due to an early unbalanced microbiome.

Lots of good gut microbes also support the gut wall, providing a protective barrier between your gut and bloodstream. Without a healthy gut wall, bacteria can cross into your circulation and potentially cause illness or disease.

Feeding the good guys

How to maintain a healthy baby gut?

Thankfully, supporting the development of baby’s microbiome is simple, by providing baby with good nutrition from birth.

If it works for mom and baby, breastfeeding is best for good gut health. Bifidobacterium is one of the first bacteria to grow inside the baby’s gut, helping break down breast milk for use. Breast milk contains prebiotic human milk oligosaccharide, the food needed by Bifidobacterium to grow and flourish.

Once baby starts eating solids, offer a range of age-appropriate foods. Include plenty of colorful vegetables and flavors and then, when appropriate, move onto other family foods. A diverse diet builds a diverse microbiome.

Introducing high-fiber foods as baby grows also supports a healthy microbiome. Some gut microbes break down fiber into short-chain fatty acids that play an important role in health and preventing disease.

Prebiotics are also an important food source for good bacteria and are found in many vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. And for added good gut support, probiotics offer many benefits for little one’s tummy.

Set for life

Understanding the importance of a healthy microbiome means you’re now armed with the knowledge to give baby and their microbes the best start in life.

Disclaimer: The information provided is the opinion of Good Feeding, it has not been evaluated by healthcare professionals, and is for educational purposes only.  Before starting any new foods or feeding practices, please consult your baby's healthcare professional.

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