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Breast milk and cuddling gives healthy bacteria to C-section babies

Lisa Pham

Bloomberg – Mothers can help babies born via a cesarean section restore healthy bacteria to their systems by breastfeeding and cuddling them, a new study shows.

More than half of a baby’s microbiomes are derived from its mother during birth, but infants delivered via surgery get fewer microbes than those born naturally. Breastfeeding can help compensate for that by delivering good bacteria which is essential in helping to build immunity and fight infections, according to the study published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe recently.

Researchers collected samples from a mother’s skin, breastmilk and vagina, along with samples from the baby’s skin, nose, saliva and gut. The results were then analysed to determine where the babies were getting their microbiomes, with 120 mother-infant pairs taking part in the study.

“Microbiome transfer and development are so important that evolution has ensured that those microbes are transferred one or another way from mother to child,” said Physician Scientist at the University of Edinburgh Debby Bogaert, one of the study’s authors.

“Breastfeeding becomes even more important for children born by cesarean section who do not receive gut and vaginal microbes from their mom.”

Cesarean sections account for about one in five of all births, with this figure expected to rise to almost one-third by 2030, according to the World Health Organization.

C-section babies have certain longer-terms risks for asthma and obesity potentially because of different microbiomes than in children born vaginally, or because of antibiotics given to mothers during the procedure, said Director of the Paediatric clinic and polyclinic at Würzburg University Hospital in Germany Christoph Härtel who was not involved in the study.

“Mothers of C-section babies – and their parents in general – often wonder if there is anything they can do for the child to help with its microbiome,” said Härtel.

“The study provides a first positive message, which we actually always give to the women after birth: lots of cuddling, lots of breastfeeding.”

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