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A Bit of Mom’s Poop Might Boost Health of C-Section Babies: Study | Health News

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

(HealthDay)

THURSDAY, Oct. 1, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Delivering by cesarean section deprives babies from receiving mom’s beneficial bacteria during the journey through the birth canal. Now researchers are studying an innovative way to counter that: Feeding newborns breast milk fortified with their mother’s poop.

There is, indeed, a yuck factor, the scientists acknowledge. But they also stress that the tactic, still under study, is done through a carefully controlled, hygienic process. And mothers seem to be all for it.

The research, described in the Oct. 1 issue of Cell, is part of a growing interest in the microbiome — the vast collection of bacteria and other microbes that naturally dwell in and on the body.

Studies in recent years have been revealing just how important those bugs are to the body’s normal processes — from metabolism to immune defenses to brain function.

And there’s evidence that the way a baby is delivered could have critical effects on the composition of the early-life microbiome.

Vaginal childbirth exposes newborns to the beneficial microbes in the birth canal, but C-sections bypass that process. In turn, studies have found that babies born by cesarean tend to have different microbiomes than babies born vaginally.

Those differences can be seen out to one year of age, said Dr. Martin Blaser, a professor and chairman of the human microbiome at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, N.J.

“Things do normalize, but for a while the microbiome is abnormal,” said Blaser, who was not involved in the new study.

Children born by C-section tend to have higher risks for conditions like asthma, allergies, obesity and type 1 diabetes, Blaser said. And it’s thought that the early-life microbiome may play a role, by affecting immune system and metabolic development.

In a small 2016 study, Blaser’s colleague and wife, Maria Dominguez-Bello, tested a way to “restore” a more-normal microbiome to C-section babies: swabbing them with their mothers’ vaginal fluids right after birth.

It seemed to work. One month later, the swabbed infants had microbial communities that were more similar to vaginally delivered babies’ than to those of other C-section babies.

The new study took a different route to restoring the microbiome: diluting a mother’s fecal sample in breast milk, and feeding it to her infant shortly after birth.

Seven women provided the samples three weeks before undergoing a planned C-section. All were carefully screened for viruses like hepatitis and HIV, and the fecal samples were tested for a range of bacterial infections and parasites, according to co-senior researcher Dr. Sture Andersson.

The breast milk was the mother’s own, or retrieved from a donor-milk bank.

“This should only be performed under rigorously controlled conditions,” stressed Andersson, of the Pediatric Research Center at the University of Helsinki.

Similar to the swabbing study, this one found that internally delivering moms’ microbes seemed to affect development of the newborns’ microbiome. At the age of 3 months, the babies’ microbial makeup looked more like that of