One of the most disturbing things to cope with on the arrival of a newborn baby is the discomfort or danger caused to him by colic, thrush or diarrhoea.
These seemingly different symptoms may indeed have a common root cause, and are often pervalent where the child is a "Caesar baby."
When a baby is in the womb, his intestinal tract is sterile, that is, uninhabited by the 400 to 500 odd species of bacteria which co-exist in the adult digestive tract. Of these bacteria, some are essential for health, assisting in the breakdown of foodstuffs, the production of certain vitamins and the domination and control of harmful bacteria.
In the case of an infant digestive tract, Bifidobacterium Infantis is a friendly little critter producing an enzyme that splits milk sugar (lactose) helping the baby to digest it so reducing the potential of lactose intolerance development. It also enhances the absorption of nutrients like calcium and stimulates the immune system among other things.
The question is, where do these bacteria come from between the time the infant is in the womb with no gut bacteria and when he takes his first feed? They are not in the mother's milk.
The answer is that they enter the infant's mouth during the passage down the birth canal in the case of a natural birth, the birth canal containing similar beneficial bacteria to those found in the intestinal tract amongst the many others. These tend to thrive on mothers milk and so the most desirable bacteria soon make up about 99% of the mix inside the baby's gut.
This poses two questions:
Where does a baby born by caesarean section get intestinal bacteria from?
What happens if the mother has vaginal yeast or other infections prior to a natural birth?
A baby born by caesarean section picks up his first bacteria from his surroundings, and the operating theater tend to have a mixture of the stubborn ones we would rather be without. The baby is then moved to a ward where he / she picks up whatever is going from sheets, clothing, mom and relatives.
This is a recipe for digestive problems, often leading to colic, diarrhoea and it may result in a very dangerous situation especially where a baby is fed with formula which does not stimulate the growth of the right bacteria. This can lead to a more alkaline Ph in his digestive tract which is more favorable to harmful bacteria than it should be.
This is certainly a bad start to life.
If the mother has a yeast infection, it can easily transfer to the baby causing oral thrush as well as a nappy rash.
These conditions can be and are best deal with very quickly to prevent long-term complications and allergies for the baby and unnecessary anxiety and exhaustion on the mother's part.
A baby who screams in pain for half an hour or more after every feed certainly traumatises the mother, especially a first time mom. More to the point, it is a wretched situation for the little one.
Fortunately, supplements of beneficial bacteria can be taken from day one to quickly begin the process of building a healthy gut for life and keeping sickness at bay.