Creating a microbiome

by Christina on November 18, 2014

“Human milk is more than food. It’s a complex living substance, like blood, with a long list of active germ-fighting and health-promoting ingredients.”~Dr. Sears website 

Breast milk is like blood. Alive with white blood cells, antibodies, and changing with the changing needs of the baby.

The responsibility for another being’s growth and nourishment is a heavy task. I see how what I eat affects him. There are days when he is more gassy than others, and occasional nights where he inconsolably cries with what seems to be belly pain. If I eat garlic or spice he tastes garlic and spice. If I eat a lot of collard greens his milk has a green tint. If I drink coffee or alcohol he drinks coffee and alcohol.

Our pediatrician talks about how he is “creating his microbiome.” His gut is immature and developing and this causes gas and discomfort.

Growing a microbiome. We know more and more about the importance of the microbiome on our physical and mental health and how it plays a role in obesity, immune function, food cravings, and more. We also know that a mother shapes the micriobiome of her baby:

Women’s milk had up to 600 species of bacteria, as well as sugars called oligosaccharides that babies cannot digest. The sugars serve to nourish certain beneficial gut bacteria in the infants, the scientists said. The more the good bacteria thrive, the harder it is for harmful species to gain a foothold.

A recent study shows that longer breastfeeding correlates with growth of more optimal gut bacteria. Here’s a summary article about it:

“This new study challenges the previous belief that gut bacteria are stable from about 12 months old by showing that these bacteria continue changing until about 3 years of age. This means there is a “window” in these early years where the gut bacteria are more vulnerable to external factors. It seems that the longer a child is breastfed, the longer the bacteria is encouraged to flourish.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at least 12 months of breast feeding and the World Health Organization recommends up to 2 years or more.

2 years or more? We’ll see how working and pumping goes. So far I have not been impressed with the breast pump process… lots of small parts with a time consuming cleaning process, and frankly I do not enjoy being hooked up to a loud machine that doesn’t even express milk that efficiently.

I was so happy to see that MIT finally held a “Make the Breast Pump Not Suck” hackathon. Maybe one day it will get better and we won’t feel like cattle.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I eat/should be eating as a nursing mother. Especially thinking about the important task of creating a microbiome, and how what I eat is what he eats. I’d love to get other’s thoughts, but so far my approach has been:

  • Eat when hungry
  • Drink when thirsty (all the time)
  • Eat a diversity of vegetables and fruits
  • Eat lots of nuts
  • Try to eat foods with omega-3’s (flax, nuts, chia seeds, occasional salmon) and since I don’t do that often I also take a daily omega-3 supplement
  • Eat protein (I don’t eat meat so for me this is mainly eggs, cheese, beans and the occasional tofu or tempeh or salmon)
  • Avoid processed sugar
  • Take a vitamin D supplement daily
  • Eat organic when possible
  • Try to eat some fermented foods (tempeh, sauerkraut, kombucha)
  • Avoid antibiotics in both of us
  • Give baby probiotics (we just started this to see if it helps with his gas and it does seem to be helping, and there’s now some evidence that they can help with colic and constipation
Baby probiotic we’re trying

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