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Infant Microbiome

Mother breastfeeding baby

By Burgie Ireland RN RM SANC

The theme for this year’s World Health Day being ‘optimal nutrition for babies during the first 1,000 days of life – beginning at conception and ending on the child’s second birthday’ – we’re reminding you about the best gift you can give your baby. Breastfeeding. The many under-cover bonuses – to Mom and baby – are staggering.

Breastfeeding and the ‘infant microbiome effect’:

Literally billions of ‘microbiomes’ or ‘good bacteria’ are found on the skin, gut and reproductive areas. The womb is sterile, and when the baby passes through the birth canal, the first microbiomes cover the baby like cling-wrap. This is called microbiome ‘seeding’. The second ‘basting’ happens when baby is put skin-to-skin with mom. And then, when baby suckles at the breast, healthy microbiomes are swallowed. These colonise (line) the gut, starting the process of food absorption and digestion.

Prepping the bowel for the gruelling life-long task of digesting food begins with baby’s first milk called colostrum. Colostrum production begins during the third trimester and ends abruptly when the placenta comes away. After this, mom makes mature breast milk for as long as her baby suckles.

Successful microbiome set-up depends on the type of birth (vaginal), method of feeding (breastfeeding) and whether or not the baby has been exposed to antibiotics.

Only breastmilk contains natural sugars called oligosaccharides or nature’s prebiotics. These sugars feed the microbiome, helping to digest milk, prevent allergies, jump-start the immune system and lower the risk of inflammation (allergies).

Amazing! WOW!

Top tips:

  • Read everything up-to-date you can on about breastfeeding
  • Ask for your baby to left skin-to-skin with you after the birth
  • Allow your baby to find your nipple and latch correctly – this helps to prevent ALL breastfeeding problems
  • Express when you go back to work
  • Introduce solids at six months.
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