It is widely believed that newborns receive their first dose of bacteria from their mothers as they travel through the birth canal. Those bacteria then develop into a unique microbiome that will play a vital role in supporting their immune systems throughout life.
But what about babies who are born via Caesarean section? They miss out on getting many of those important microbes from mom, and studies have linked C-section births to an increased risk of breathing problems later on, along with obesity, diabetes and other problems. Now, researchers believe they may be one step closer to offering Caesarean-born babies an equal shot at getting mom’s good bacteria.
In a study published in the journal Nature Medicine, a team led by Dr. Maria Dominguez-Bello of New York University’s Langone Medical Center followed 18 mothers and their babies, 11 of whom were delivered by C-section. Using bacterial swabs collected from the mothers, doctors then transferred the maternal microbes to four of the 11 babies immediately after they were born. And while it was a small study overall, the results were promising.
One month after birth, the microbiomes of the swabbed C-section babies looked a lot like those of the babies who were born vaginally. And while they weren’t exactly identical, doctors were excited about key similarities, such as higher numbers of Lactobacilli and Bacteroides, both of which are important for digestive and immune health. Optimistic about their results, researchers are already planning another study to further explore the long-term benefits of swabbing C-section babies.