We have milk in our blood! That continues to fascinate me after many years of being a Midwife and Lactation consultant. Not only is it delicious for babies, it is the PERFECT food for babies’ lifelong health.
The Amazing H.M.O. (Human Milk Oligosaccharides)
There has been much research into the complexities of human milk but Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMO’s) have really come to the forefront of interest these days because of what we are starting to understand about the human gut and our overall health. The New Yorker published an article this month about the amazing HMO. These oligosaccharides feed only one bacterium Bifidobacterium longum infantis (B. Infantis). This is generally the dominant bacteria of vaginally-delivered, breastfed infants.
Being vaginally-born and breastfed is the biological norm so we can assume that b. Infantis is also the perfect bacteria for the newborn gut. Over time, hundreds of species of bacteria will live in the human GI tract but science is becoming more and more aware of the significance of the types of bacteria that colonize the bowel. This is an excerpt from the journal Microbiology Spectrum, June 2015:
An increasing number of human disease conditions, such as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), type 2 diabetes, obesity, allergies and colorectal cancer are linked with altered microbiota composition (3). Moreover, a clearer picture is emerging of the composition of the human microbiota in healthy individuals, its variability over time and between different persons and how the microbiota is shaped by environmental factors (i.e., diet) and the host’s genetic background (4). A general feature of a normal, healthy gut microbiota can generate conditions in the gut that disfavor colonization of enteric pathogens. This is termed colonization-resistance (CR).
All birth workers should be aware of how much the infant depends on us to help him achieve life-long health. The colonization of the infant’s sterile gut begins when he is born and the optimal bacteria needs H.M.O.’s to survive and thrive.
Human Milk Oligosaccharides & B. Infantis Have Many Health Benefits for Infants:
- As the bacteria consumes HMO’s, it releases a chain of fatty acids that feed the infant’s gut lining, making it healthier.
- Only b. Infantis interacts directly with the gut lining to close gaps. These gaps, or leaks, in the gut allow bacteria and other inflammatory agents to escape the gut and wreak havoc on a person’s immune system.
- An infant’s brain grows rapidly in the first year of life and is dependent upon sialic acid to grow properly. This acid is produced by B. Infantis so the researchers theorize that the more b. Infantis there is(which flourishes with a large dose of H.M.O.’s), the smarter the baby will be!
- Human Milk Oligosaccharides look similar to the glycans on babies’ intestinal cells and so acts as a decoy to draw pathogens like Salmonella;Listeria; Vibrio cholerae, the culprit behind cholera; Campylobacter jejuni, the most common cause of bacterial diarrhea; Entamoeba histolytica, an amoeba that causes dysentery and many virulent strains of coli away from the gut cells and thus preventing infection. H.M.O.s may even be able to obstruct H.I.V. infection in babies whose mothers are H.I.V. positive.
A Program Designed For The Best Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Outcomes
When I read this information, I am renewed in my efforts to help women have the healthiest families possible; first by prioritizing vaginal birth and then by helping them breastfeed successfully.
The Midwives of New Jersey use a Program designed to give every woman her best possible chance to have a vaginal birth and a successful breastfeeding relationship. The program includes things like individualized nutritional counseling, chiropractic assessment and care, doula care during labor, a high-touch low-tech, evidence-based midwifery model for pregnancy, birth and postpartum care, childbirth classes designed to empower and encourage and Mother’s groups before and after birth to give women the social support they really need.
Not all Hospitals and Practitioners Are Alike
When presented with this information about the extraordinary health benefits of breastmilk, the average woman might assume that health professionals working in the hospitals where they are delivering their babies know this information. Sadly, they do not seem to, as evidenced by the actual practice. Women need to reach out and find institutions and practitioners that truly put this evidence into practice.