During the first years of life, a baby develops its gut microbiome. When a mother gives birth, it is the first time the baby is colonized with microbes which will impact its health for a lifetime. Over the years, the baby picks up microbes from their environment, adding new bacteria to their ecosystem.
The development of the microbiome is influenced by several factors of which delivery method is an important one. It is known that the gut bacterial populations of children born vaginally differ from children that are born via Caesarean section. Research has shown that vaginally born babies got most of their gut bacteria from their mother, while babies born via cesarean did not. Instead, they had more bacteria associated with hospitals in their guts. Also breastfeeding has been shown to influence the gut microbiota of the baby. Taken together the microbes a baby inherits from its mother play a crucial role in determining the child’s health later in life.
Every mother wants to give her children the healthiest possible start in life. Besides type of feeding, place of delivery and delivery method, mothers(-to-be) can already start boosting their baby’s microbiome through optimizing their own gut microbes. In conjunction with medical professionals, women can also consider adding probiotics to their diets to optimize their gut microbes during pregnancy and lactation.