We’ve come a long way in the last few decades in our understanding of what we can do to establish a healthy immune system and prevent childhood illnesses at the same time. We learned that handwashing is the best way to prevent disease but that playing in the dirt may actually be good for your child’s health. There are so many “suggested” ways to maintain your new baby’s health e.g. “breast is best”, antibiotics early on can be harmful, and that a vaginal birth is preferred over a C-section in order to establish a healthy microbiome for your baby.12 The current focus of the scientific community is how we can help our little ones cultivate a strong and healthy microbiome, even if the mother is unable to produce enough breastmilk or if an emergency C-section prevented her from being able to introduce a healthy microbiome to baby.3
What is the Microbiome and How Does it Affect Your Baby's Health?
Simply put, the microbiome is the combined genetic makeup of all of the yeast, bacteria, and fungus that happily coexist in and on our bodies.4 Most of these microorganisms are considered “commensal” – they neither harm us nor provide any true benefit other than taking up real estate that might otherwise be taken by harmful microbes. Some microorganisms, however, are considered “probiotic” – they provide enormous benefits to us and having them take up residence early on in life can protect us from infection or even allergies.5
Babies are sterile inside of the womb and only begin to have their own microbiome at the moment of birth. Ideally, they are bathed in a fabulous cocktail of vaginal microbiota from head to toe and then minutes later are popped onto the breast where their pristine guts are colonized immediately with the antibody-rich golden nectar of prebiotic-rich colostrum. It’s not long before that colostrum gives way to breastmilk that contains a probiotic strain that is so connected to the human baby’s gut health – Bifidobacterium longum infantis. This strain helps to modulate our immune systems, keep the lining of our gut strong and healthy, and alleviate the symptoms related to: constipation, gassiness, abdominal pain, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), atopic dermatitis, and eczema.6
The Power of Breastmilk
This breastmilk is so powerful, that even the smallest amount given to your baby, even after a C-section, can offset the negative effects of missing out on the microbial benefits of vaginal birth.7 Turns out that pumping also falls behind on the scale of the beneficial microbial transfer. The strains of bacteria and yeast that live on your skin are introduced to the baby once they begin breastfeeding and help to protect them from harmful bacteria that want to take up residence. Later on, when the baby begins to take on more solid foods, it’s definitely beneficial to include some probiotic foods in order to establish a healthy microbiome early. During the first 3 years of life, the foundation of the gut microbiome is being laid.8 If this foundation-building is disrupted by severe illness or antibiotics, the child is much more likely to develop autoimmune and metabolic disorders later in life.9
So if you’re worried about how to help give your little one the best start to overall microbiome health, here’s what to keep in mind: opt for vaginal birth, if at all possible, avoid taking antibiotics while pregnant or breastfeeding, and if you’re able to breastfeed at all, every little bit is beneficial and can offset the negative effects of a C-section, formula feeding, or even antibiotic treatment. And after your little one starts eating solid foods, try a very wide variety of fruits, vegetables, beans (don’t forget hummus), and probiotic foods (yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha). You may be surprised by what they like!
What Can Parents Do?
Of course, we understand that an “easy” birth experience isn't always the case. There are several factors that may cause your baby to not be, “bathed in a fabulous cocktail of vaginal microbiota from head to toe.” So what should the rest of us do?
Good question, good nutrition and high-quality supplements are some of the keys to your child growing up healthy and happy. Here is what the Harvard Medical School says about nourishing your kids10:
Most of the same strategies for healthy eating that work for adults also work for children. Children need the same nutrients as adults, but in different amounts.
Healthy diets for all ages are based on what the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans call nutrient-dense foods from different categories. These include:
Fruits and Vegetables. A variety of fresh, canned, frozen, or dried fruits and vegetables that cover the color spectrum: red tomatoes and strawberries; oranges and carrots; yellow squashes and bananas; leafy greens, avocadoes, and limes; blueberries; and purple grapes and eggplant. As a rule, the richer the color, the healthier the food.
Grains. Whole grains, such as oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, or whole-grain bread.
Protein. Fish and other types of seafood, poultry, poultry, beans and other legumes, nuts and seeds, and lean meats.
Dairy Foods. Low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy foods.
Fats. Don't fear fats—as long as they are healthy fats from foods such as fish, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils.
At the same time, it's best to limit a child's intake of foods with:
Added sugar. Sweetened breakfast cereals, sodas, juices, pastries etc...
Solid fats. Hot dogs and other fatty meats, full-fat dairy foods, and many prepared foods
Added salt. Chips, bread, and many processed and prepared foods
We know that finding the right mix of nutrition for your child can be extremely difficult, especially if you have a picky eater (almost every toddler) and you don’t have the time to cook delicious organic, colorful foods every day (almost all of us). That’s where companies such as Square Baby and Sun Genomics can help.
Square Baby - Custom Meal Plans for Babies
Square Baby offers on-demand delivery of its Square Meal System. The Square Meal System A foolproof way to give your baby 100% daily nutrition. Rooted in nutrition science, our team of Registered Dietitians and Pediatricians create tailored meal plans to offer 100% of your baby’s daily fruits, vegetables, grain, and protein servings based on USDA recommendations. They take the guesswork out of nutrition and meal prep making it easier to feed your child healthy and great tasting foods.
Floré by Sun Genomics - Custom Probiotics
Sun Genomics’, Floré combines whole-genome DNA analysis with precision probiotics custom formulated based on a persons’ unique DigestiveDNA™. The customer’s microbiome journey begins when they register for the customer portal and receive their microbiome sampling kit. Once the customer provides a stool sample, our scientists extract the DNA and apply our patented methodology combining whole-genome shotgun sequencing with a built-in-house bioinformatic pipeline. The customer then receives their microbiome analysis through an online customer interface identifying the bacteria within their gut as well as a three-month supply of precision probiotics manufactured in the GMP facility in San Diego, California.
Every parent wants what’s best for their child and that’s where understanding the microbiome, gut health, nutrition, and healthy supplements can make the difference.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4350908/ https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/2204/9357/t/10/assets/Paper-Chu.pdf