Your infants gut health plays an essential role in laying the foundations of their health later in life and it is widely accepted that their first 1,000 days (from conception to two years old) are the most significant period of their development. Scientists agree that the gut microbiome affects virtually all aspects of human health, including your infant’s risk of developing certain autoimmune conditions including eczema, IBS, diabetes, obesity, coronary heart disease, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis and mood disorders.
The time before, during and after birth is a time when the gut microbiome takes centre stage in human health and during this window of time your infant will inherit his or her microbiome and this genetic inheritance is then sealed by the method of birth, as well as the baby’s diet after birth.
Why is gut health so important during pregnancy?
The lining of your gut, like every surface of your body, is covered in trillions of microscopic creatures, mostly bacteria. These organisms create a micro-ecosystem called the microbiome. Each person’s microbiome is as unique as their fingerprint and the mix of bacteria in your baby’s body will be different from everyone else’s. This mix is determined partly by your gut microbiota – the environment that your baby is exposed to at birth – and partly from diet and lifestyle after birth. It’s therefore of primary importance that your own gut is in great shape so that you can get your baby off to the best possible start!
Supporting their gut after birth
Once born, an infant’s gut rapidly develops. During this time, the gut microbiome programmes their immune system. Species of Bifidobacteria, that are dominant in healthy infants, help to ‘train’ the immune system so it can respond appropriately to potential allergens or harmful bugs. Bifidobacteria work to create a healthy gut environment and increase overall diversity by encouraging other good bacteria to grow.
Your infants first large exposure to these bacteria is from birth. Infants who are born by vaginally delivery pick up microbes from the mother gut microbiome, therefore it is important that a mother has a diverse microbiome at this point. Whereas infants born by C-section pick up microbes from the hospital environment which are more likely to be antibiotic resistant. This can delay the colonisation of the good bacteria in their gut, including species of Bifidobacteria. This has been linked to C-sectioned infants having a higher risk of developing allergic diseases (including hay fever, eczema and food allergies) later in life.
Increasing the diversity of your infant’s gut microbiome
Birth mode cannot be controlled and may not be a choice for many with benefits for both the mother and infant. However, there are several ways you can support your infants gut microbiome to assist in immune system development including the use of friendly bacteria drops.
Friendly bacteria drops can deliver good bacteria, like species of Bifidobacteria, to your infants’ gut to support the development of their microbiome and immune system. An infant’s gut microbiome has different species of bacteria present when compared to an adult’s microbiome therefore, it is important to choose a friendly bacteria supplement that has been formulated specifically for infants. Additionally, not all supplements are suitable for both breastfed and bottle-fed infants, so make sure you chose one which is suitable for both.
If you'd like to learn more about supporting your infants gut health, book a free 1:1 consultation with our nutrition team.