In the womb, your baby has no bacteria in his gut, and at birth as he goes through the birth canal, he takes in bacteria from his mother and starts to develop his own personal colony of gut flora that is unique to him. The birth canal is a microbe-rich environment that coats him as he is born and begins the process of developing his intestinal flora.
If he is born through Caesarean section, his bacteria is mostly colonized from his mother’s skin instead of her vagina, which has a higher concentration of Lactobacillus, a kind of bacteria that aids in the digestion of milk. Babies born through Caesarean section and who cannot breast-feed may need additional probiotic boosters to help establish their gut flora.
Approximately 10 to 30 percent of pregnant women carry Group B strep (GBS), which is a kind of bacteria that colonizes in her vagina or intestinal tract. While GBS is generally harmless in healthy adults, it may pass to the baby during labor and birth.
The standard care for GBS is to receive antibiotics during labor to protect the baby. Like any antibiotic, this flushes out the good, as well as the bad bacteria, so a mother in this situation can benefit from replenishing her healthy bacteria with probiotics and fermented foods, such as miso soup or yogurt, after labor.
Breast milk, especially colostrum, is your baby’s first probiotic food, and it has a wealth of beneficial bacteria that helps him begin to establish his individual bacteria. Aside from breast milk, using fermented foods and probiotics can help your baby develop healthy bacteria in his digestive system, which supports his digestion and absorption of nutrients and helps build his immunity.
There are more than 100 trillion beneficial bacteria that live in the intestines, in the mouth, and on the skin. These bacteria have a symbiotic relationship because they have evolved in response to one another and are dependent on each other. Bacteria break down food and protect the walls of the digestive tract by establishing a foundation of flora to defend against viruses, fungi, pathogens, and toxins. They stimulate cell growth, repress the growth of harmful microorganisms, and help the immune system fight disease.
In return, they benefit from the stable environment inside the digestive system. Bacteria colonize on the skin, where they provide protection against more dangerous microbes in exchange for nutrients from the surface of the skin. Bacteria need food to live in an environment without oxygen, and humans need probiotic bacteria to stimulate their immune system and help keep harmful bacteria under control.