United Kingdom

Feeding C-section babies their mothers' POOP helps them develop healthy gut bacteria

Feeding babies delivered via cesarean section (C-section) their mother's poop may help them develop healthy microbiota, a new small study suggests.

Infants born this way have an increased risk of allergies and asthma because they are not exposed to the bacteria from the mother's vagina and perineum during birth.

In a drastic approach, researchers diluted a small amount of the mother's feces into breast milk and fed it to the newborn shortly after delivery. 

The team, from the Pediatric Research Center at the University of Helsinki, found the process was safe and that, within three months, the babies had gut bacteria that resembled those of babies born vaginally am not of those born via C-section who did not receive a transplant.

A new study from the University of Helsinki found that C-section babies who had a small amount of their mothers' feces fed to them at birth had gut bacteria similar to infants born vaginally (file image)

'From a clinical point of view, this transfer of microbial material is happening during a vaginal delivery,' said co-senior author Sture Andersson, a professor at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

'This is a gift the mother gives to her baby.' 

Fecal transplantation - which has become more popular in recent years - is the transfer of stool from a healthy donor into the gastrointestinal tract of a patient.

The stool contains roughly 1,000 different species of bacteria that act as probiotics and replenish the digestive tract with bacteria. 

Once doctors determine the sample is safe, they add saline to dissolve it and run it through a coffee filter to eliminate particles. 

After birth, a baby's immune system begins to develop in response to the microbes they have been exposed to.

Not being exposed to certain types of bacteria can increase the risk of allergies and conditions such as asthma. 

Past research has focused on whether or not swabbing a C-section newborn's skin with vaginal fluid right upon delivery reduces this risk.

Researchers collected fecal samples from the mothers three weeks before delivery and gave it to the babies shortly after birth.  

The infants remained in the hospital for two days following the transplant to ensure they did not suffer from any complications.

Their gut bacteria was tested at birth and then at two days, one week, two weeks, three weeks and three months. 

Results were compared against data collected from previous studies of babies born via vaginal delivery and those who did not receive transplants at the same hospital.

They found that by the time the babies were three months old, those who had received fecal transplants had similar gut bacteria to babies born vaginally. 

'This was not designed as a safety study, but we found it to be effective and supporting the concept of vertical transfer from mother to baby,' said co-senior author Dr Willem de Vos, of the Human Microbiome Research Program at the University of Helsinki. 

'However, it's very important to tell people that this is not something they should try on their own. The samples have to be tested for safety and suitability.'

For future research, the teams plans to have two groups, a fecal transplant group and a control group, to compare the results and the mothers will not know if their babies received the transplant or not.

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