There is a connection between my gut microbiome & breastfeeding? Really?
Yes, believe it or not! Your gut microbiome has a BIG influence over the outcome of breastfeeding and the health of your baby. How so? Let me explain.
The microbiome has become such a hot topic for a reason. There are trillions of little microbes that live IN and ON us, and these microbes impact our health on many different levels. Your greatest concentration of microbes are living in the gut, but most body parts have their own microbiome (like the skin and the vagina).
Your microbiome changes in preparation for both birth and breastfeeding during your third trimester.
Your breast milk microbiome is affected by other microbiome areas in your body, so it’s best to start looking after your microbiome as early as possible.
Your gut microbiome changes to increase fat and sugar uptake and storage. This will help to increase energy stores for birth and breastfeeding.
Your vaginal microbiome changes and increases the levels of lactobacilli (the good bacterie) to prepare for the exposure during a vaginal birth.
As well, your skin microbiome and breast tissue begins to build up microbes in preparation for breastfeeding.
Now to your baby.
Breast milk is the #1 contributor to the health of your baby’s microbiome.
Breast Milk contains probiotics that help with supporting and developing a baby’s immature immune system and digestive system. Breast Milk also contains prebiotics, which is food for probiotics. The prebiotics in the breast milk are called human milk oligosaccharides or HMOs. They feed a specific type of microbiome in your baby’s developing gut. Check out my other post on how breastmilk changes to meet your baby’s needs.
It’s pretty amazing, but now to the bigger picture.
How does your microbiome affect your breastfeeding outcome?
If you have any imbalance in your microbiome from preconception to birth, chances are this will be carried over to breastfeeding, and greatly impact your breastfeeding outcomes.
An imbalance means you have a loss of the good bugs and/or an overgrowth of the bad bugs. An imbalance in your microbiome is referred to as Dysbiosis.
Dysbiosis is very common since there are many factors that impact your microbiome.
- Diet – high sugar & processed foods, low nutrients & fiber content
- Environmental toxins, Herbicides, Pesticides, Chlorine etc
- Common Medications – acid reflux meds, steroids, anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, – even tylenol.
Studies show dysbiosis contributes to breastfeeding complications such as:
- Breast pain
- Nipple pain, nipple thrush, oral thrush (baby)
- Inflammation and/or Infection – mastitis
- Blocked ducts
- Colic / ‘Reflux’ / Unsettled babies
Now, what can you do as a mother to support your microbiome and a better breastfeeding outcome?
As mentioned earlier, your breast milk microbiome is affected by other microbiome areas in your body, so it’s best to start looking after your microbiome as early as possible.
Your diet is the single most effective way to improve your microbiome, so here are a few tips to support your gut health.
- Include A LOT of plant-based, colorful, whole foods – veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and herbs
- Avoid sugar or processed foods because these feed the bad bugs
- PREbiotic foods – the indigestible fibers in plant food that FEED the live bugs
- PRObiotic foods – foods that actually contain LIVE bugs – yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut etc
Your lifestyle is also important. Make sure that you reduce stressors, eliminate exposure to environmental toxins, get good sleep, and move your body.
Breastfeeding is such a crucial stage for your baby. You’re basically setting up their gut health, immune system, and microbiome that will have an impact on them for life. So, it’s worth taking time to address your microbiome health during breastfeeding!