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Hilary's Desk

Babies are sterile when they are born

Hilary Butler - Sunday, June 20, 2010

It’s mind numbing to me, that in 2010, the medical system would still expound this myth. Oy Vey. But so we read, “Study looks at why mum’s kiss is good for baby”; “Sterile when they are born, babies inherited bacteria from their main carer, usually their mother” … right there, the fundamental premis, which underpins this study, is not supported by the medical literature.

Put these PMID numbers into pubmed; 9890468; 18571710; 16242961; 11295666; 10361245; 18716189; 19239427. As you can see, by the time a baby’s head crowns at the perineum, the slow journey down the vagina will have colonized that baby’s mucosal surfaces with hundreds of different bacteria, fungi and yeasts from the mother’s vagina, IN ORDER to protect the baby from any pathogens unfamiliar to the mother/baby diad in the external environment from which it is about to breath and feed, and from non family people who may later handle the baby. If a mother is healthy then the flora is healthy. A vaginally born baby, far from being sterile, is well inoculated with commensal flora.


The Herald article says, “Dunedin mother-of-three Anna Wescombe, who is six-and-a-half months pregnant, was pleased to be taking part in the study. Hopefully her baby would benefit from the “good bacteria”, Mrs Wescombe said.”


If any pregnant woman really wants her baby to benefit from the best possible bacteria, they should be looking at their own diet from conception, and make sure their own gut flora is healthy using a wide range of probiotic foods. Mothers should avoid antibiotics in pregnancy, like the plague. Mothers should make sure that her baby is delivered vaginally preferably in a setting which isn’t full of superbugs (as teaching hospitals can be), and that her baby goes to the breast immediately, and is not handled by non-family members unnecessarily in the first few days of life...., and that she breastfeeds for a minimum of 18 months, fully breastfeeding for a minimum of 6 months.


The medical literature is very extensive on these issues and very clear about the beneficial impact of "doing birth right".

The research describing the very significant differences in bacterial innoculum in caesarian babies, compared to vaginally born babies (which lasted more than a year) was published in 1999.

If all babies were born sterile, mode of delivery wouldn’t matter a jot.

Here’s a vaginal bacteriology 101 for you.

1) As a baby passes through the vagina during birth, it hopefully picks up good commensal flora from the healthy mother’s vagina, which spread rapidly to coat the mucosal surfaces.


2) If a baby is put straight to the breast, it picks up more from the nipple, AND the clear fluid in the breast acts as a sweeping surfactant, spreading all the hundreds of different flora picked up from the mother, through the mucosal surfaces, thereby protecting the baby from non-commensal bacteria in the environment.


3) Breastmilk, then backs up with a different range of bacterial flora which complement and strengthen the flora from the vagina.


4) Immunological properties in the breastmilk, “switch up” the inate immune system, and start to teach the immune system, what is a dangerous antigen and what is not.

It’s all there in the medical literature.

But here’s the kicker.

If you have a baby in the“aggressive management” mode, in a hospital environment, where antibiotics are thrown into mother and baby, which act as napalm bombs clearing out the good bacteria…, and the bacteria absorbed by the baby from that environment is a totally gross soup of superbugs, noroviruses and a whole range of super-antigens which neither you, your baby, or your family are familiar with… and you let the medical profession system “manage” your relationship with your baby, you risk undoing a “design process” which is specifically to protect your baby’s best interests.

Back to the Dunedin study.


The researcher, Professor John Tagg, wants pregnant women to suck probiotic lozenges to colonise their mouths with a bacteria associated with preventing sore throats and ear infections called streptococcus salivarius M12 (Based on the same principle as Blis K12 Throat Guard, which Professor Tagg developed).

After doing a pubmed search and reading Professor Tagg’s Otago University home page, I’m concerned. None of the papers Professor Tagg has written, demonstrate a broad understanding of function commensal flora or breast milk, in the mother/baby diad-ecosystem, and how both prime and orchestrate the baby’s inate immune system.

That… is a bit of a worry to me.

Here is my idea of constructive science:

First – determine and describe what “normal” is. That’s your baseline, and ‘normal’ is NOT sterile.

Next - determine and describe the implications of “aggressive birth management” and why babies born by caesarian have different bacterial flora to those born vaginally.

Then compare the differences of the bioflora of hospital birthed babies caesarian and vaginally, compared with home-birthed babies.

Describe the drivers of those differences, and logical simple (non patented) mechanisms to rectify any problems seen.

ONLY when a researcher understands what creates the normal baseline for babies, can they then with certainty, start suggesting ANY improvements.


In fundamental knowledge has not been taken into account, talking about mother’s kissing babies being the font of all good flora to prevent sore throats and ear infections, is somewhat presumptive.

 

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