As many of you know, one of the central themes of my recent book, Brain Maker, deals with the importance of method of birth in terms of seeding an infant’s microbiome. We now know, moving ahead, that even issues like immunity and inflammation later in life are significantly impacted by how a child is born.
As I did discuss in the book, work by Dr. Maria Dominguez-Bello at New York University centers on this fundamental event in a person’s life, if and how a baby passes through birth canal. Importantly, she seeks to understand how this exposure inoculates the newborn child with the seeds for his or her future microbiome.
In today’s interview, I speak with Toni Harman.
Toni is a filmmaker and, with her husband, Alex Wakeford, she created a fascinating film, Microbirth, that focuses on just this exact topic (the importance of how we are born).
Now, with her new book, Your Baby’s Microbiome, Toni does a deep dive and explores the possible health consequences related to cesarean section versus vaginal birth, in terms of the microbiome. The book is fascinating and we are going to jump right in.
At least two amazing events happen during childbirth. There’s the obvious main event, which is the emergence of a new human into the world. But then there’s the non-human event that is taking place simultaneously, a crucial event that is not visible to the naked eye, an event that could determine the lifelong health of the baby. This is the seeding of the baby’s microbiome, the community of ‘good’ bacteria that we carry with us throughout our lives. The seeding of the microbiome, along with other processes including breastfeeding, kickstarts the baby’s immune system and helps to protect the infant from disease for its entire lifetime. However, with interventions like use of synthetic oxytocin, antibiotics, C-section and formula feeding, this microbial transfer from the mother to baby is interfered with or bypassed completely. Emerging research shows that bacteria are absolutely vital for human health, and imbalances in the human microbiome significantly contribute to chronic non-transmissible diseases.
Drawing on the extensive research they carried out for their documentary film Microbirth, authors Toni Harman and Alex Wakeford reveal a fascinating new view of birth, and how microscopic happenings can have lifelong consequences, both for ourselves, our children – and our species as a whole.
I’m certain you’ll enjoy today’s discussion.