There might be a way to help babies born via Cesarean section receive the same benefits babies delivered vaginally naturally get. But it involves feeding the newborns their mother’s poop--just a tiny bit.
A new study published in the journal Cell suggests that fecal-oral transmission during vaginal births improves babies’ gut health. The same method of delivery may also work for babies born via C-section.
The researchers fed the babies born via C-section a sample of their mother’s poop diluted in breast milk, and analyzed the infant’s bowel movements for three months. Within three weeks, their gut microbiomes resemble those of babies born vaginally, reports ScienceMag.org.
What is gut health?
Gut refers to the stomach and intestines, both part of the digestive tract, which plays a vital role in developing a baby’s immune system. Exposure to a host of bacteria primes the infant’s immune system to develop naturally.
Some experts say that a vaginal birth exposes a newborn to a “huge amount of bacteria” by passing through the birth canal. The researchers tried "seeding" C-section babies with their mother’s vaginal bacteria, but their gut bacteria didn’t match the gut health of babies born vaginally. (Read more about "seeding" C-section babies here.)
The researchers then speculated that its bacteria from the mother’s poop influences an infants’ gut health. It’s not far out idea. It’s normal for women to poop during labor and delivery. It’s not an issue, and perhaps more soon, if a mom’s poop can indeed help improve the baby’s health.
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What does this mean for your baby’s health?
So should you feed your poop to your baby? Of course, you shouldn't! It is NOT a do-it-yourself hack to improve your baby’s gut health. While none of the babies who had a tiny bit of their mom’s poop experienced any significant adverse effects, remember that they did so in a controlled environment.
Past studies suggest C-section babies are more at risk of developing asthma, allergies, and other autoimmune diseases. Experts speculate it’s because they are exposed to fewer bacteria at birth and only via skin-to-skin contact. But many factors influence your child’s health, and by just how he arrived in this world.
C-sections have saved countless lives of moms and babies. You have many other options to improve your child’s health, such as breastfeeding your baby. After about a year, babies, regardless of how they are born, could very well have the same gut health.