When a new infant emerges into the world, another crucial event happens simultaneously. Unlike the impossible-to-ignore birth, it is quiet. Invisible. But no less important. This event kick starts the immune system, protects the infant from disease, and shapes the health of this new human over a lifetime. It is a micro happening with macro consequences. It is the seeding of the microbiome.
In their fascinating new book Your Baby’s Microbiome, Toni Harman and Alex Wakeford draw on the extensive research they compiled for their award-winning documentary Microbirth to shed light on this entirely new understanding of birth.
Backed by an A-team of experts, the authors define the microbiome as a community of trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that you carry with you throughout your life. It forms around childbirth and is established before we turn three years old. A thriving microbiome is vital for human health, while an imbalanced microbiome has been linked to multiple chronic diseases.
Despite the significance of the microbial transfer from mother to baby, the process is interfered with—or even bypassed—in countless births across the country every day. Synthetic oxytocin. Antibiotics. Cesareans. Formula feeding. All of these common practices affect the baby’s microbiome.
However, there is no scolding here. The authors approach these issues with compassion rather than judgment. The sections on formula and C-sections in particular are informed by Harmon’s own experiences as a new mother who faced these same struggles. Nervous mothers who undergo Cesareans or depend on formula for whatever reason will find solutions and options for building up their baby’s microbiome.
From the first chapter (“What Is the Human Microbiome?”) to the last (“What Are the Solutions?”), the book is organized around the important questions that expecting parents may not know to ask. Along with the bulleted summaries at the end of each chapter, this makes it all the easier for expecting parents to discuss their own worries, expectations, and questions with their birthing team.
Empowering, informative, and compassionate, Your Baby’s Microbiome can profoundly change maternity care in this country for the better. It belongs in the hands of anyone working in the obstetric and birthing communities. But it especially belongs in the hands of anyone considering bringing a new human with the highest prospect of lifelong good health into the world.
“Toni Harman and Alex Wakeford shine the brightest of spotlights on the importance of birth and early infancy. Your Baby’s Microbiome is compelling and informative—a must read for parents-to-be.”
—Dr. Rodney Dietert, Professor of Immunotoxicology, Cornell University
“A fascinating read for anyone interested in what it means to be human.”
—Jennifer Margulis, PhD, author of Your Baby, Your Way
“For expectant families, this is the must-read book of this generation. This timely information should be included as part of every childbirth education and newborn care class.”
—Laurel Wilson, coauthor of The Attachment Pregnancy
“Our expanding understanding of the roles of the microbiome and epigenetics in health and disease is profoundly changing maternity care and public health for the better. The conversational style and clear explanations in Your Baby’s Microbiome by some of the world’s leading scientists and maternity care providers make this new and complex information accessible and inpiring to the general public.”
—Penny Simkin, author, doula, and birth educator