Gut bacteria is the foundation of a lifetime of good health. Here are six tips for healthy gut bacteria in pregnancy and newborns.
Written by contributor Erin Long
When your baby is conceived she has a totally unique genetic make up, a mashup of you and your husband’s DNA.
You can’t control whose eye color she will have, if she’ll be high-strung like you or relaxed like your husband, or, God forbid, she gets your father-in-law’s sense of humor.
There is one thing your precious baby receives from you, as mom, from conception that you can control: her gut bacteria.
Super exciting, huh?
You decide the quality of her gut flora, which is foundational for a life of health. When you have healthy gut bacteria you give high quality nutrients to your developing baby through your red blood cells and providing a thriving place to grow. As she passes through the birth canal she’ll be covered in your gut bacteria, which will colonize her gut. She’ll continue to get doses as she contacts your skin and breastfeeds.
So, how do you promote healthy gut bacteria in pregnancy and your for your newborn ? Here’s 6 ways you can ensure you pass on the best gut flora you can.
1. Build up your healthy gut bacteria before conceiving
While this is not the time for a full, intense detox (detoxes take away energy your body needs to conceive) you should remove as many toxins from your diet and environment as you can. Use non-toxic cleaners and eat a whole foods diet rich in prebiotics and probiotics, with as much organic as possible. This helps the body to detoxify at a rate that supports your ability to get pregnant while creating a healthy environment for your little one.
2. Consider taking a probiotic supplement if you’re having difficulty conceiving
Many fertility issues stem from an unhealthy gut so if you’re having difficulty conceiving, creating a healthy gut flora, thus also balancing hormones, is vitally important.
3. During pregnancy, eat a diet rich in prebiotics and probiotics, and consider taking a supplement
So you already filled your gut with healthy bacteria and now a baby is thriving on all the awesome nutrients you’re passing onto her through the foods you’re eating. Great! Keep it up. In-utero exposure to probiotics is linked to a healthy immune system and helps prevent allergies, among other health benefits.
4. Relax and minimize stress
A study done on mice found that babies born to stressed mothers had more bacteria associated with difficulty dealing with stress and less of the most foundational types of bacteria. So, in spite of all the stressors that come along with pregnancy, keep your cool. It just might make it easier for your baby to keep hers.
Of course, we can’t always just choose to not encounter stressful things, which is where healthy stress management comes into play. Check out this post for some healthy stress management tips that can help!
Prebiotic-rich breast milk promotes the growth of good bacteria and hinders that of bad bacteria, selecting the bacteria necessary for optimal health. Waiting to introduce solids also gives your baby’s gut a chance to develop without outside interference.
Check out these helpful posts here at R&H:
- 5 Breastfeeding Myths Debunked
- Forget What You Know About Breastfeeding Positions. Try This Instead.
- My Top Ten Breastfeeding Essentials
6. Lots of skin-on-skin time
Gut bacteria is also passed on by skin contact, yet another reason why it’s so important in the first moments of a baby’s life.
But what if your baby is born C-section or is receives antibiotics in utero or shortly after birth?
There isn’t sufficient research done on the best way to treat a newborn not exposed to her mother’s gut bacteria for me to make any clear suggestions but I can speak from personal experience.
My daughter was born by emergency C-section and I was GBS positive, thus got a round of antibiotics, when my son was born VBAC five weeks early — neither of my births were ideal for passing on good gut bacteria (I’ve learned a lot since my kids were born and would definitely do things differently now). To give them the best chance at a healthy gut I:
- breastfed both my kids over a year and if I were to do it over I would give them a very small amount of infant probiotics as well.
- my kids take a daily probiotic, eat whole and probiotic-rich foods
- we avoid antibiotics unless absolutely necessary
- look at rebuilding their gut health as a long-term process and I’m constantly learning how to help that happen
We all want to give our kids the best chance at life possible and in many ways that starts with their gut health. Their bodies face many challenges as they adapt to life outside the womb and strive to become strong and healthy.
As mothers we can do our best to provide them with a thriving gut flora that can sustain them throughout life.