How to Establish a Healthy Gut in Your Primal Baby

Child Playing OutdoorsYes, folks: it’s another post about the gut. But today’s advice is geared toward all the Primal babies out there in preconception, in utero, and in diapers. Because for the first few years, they’re pretty helpless and ignorant in matters of the gut. They need your help to establish and maintain a healthy intestinal environment. They need your expertise and guidance and occasional intervention. And sometimes, as you’ll see, they need you to give them the freedom to do some often unpleasant-looking activities that pay dividends to longterm gut health.

Since most of the immune system resides in the gut, and the development of a kid’s gut microbiome is in many ways the development of his immune system, this turns out to be a helpful guide for parents interested in optimizing their child’s immune system.

Prenatal Considerations

Avoid obesity. Maternal obesity during the prenatal period creates an inflammatory placental environment that can predispose the offspring to gut issues after birth, including leaky gut and intestinal inflammation. So don’t become obese. And if you are, it’d be ideal to become less so before getting pregnant. This is best done before you get pregnant, as dieting during a pregnancy can be hard on everyone involved and not generally recommended.

Avoid gluten. Studies in diabetic rodents show that a maternal gluten-free diet can improve the gut barrier function and reduce the incidence of diabetes in the offspring, even in non-celiacs.

Take probiotics and eat fermented food. Although researchers used to think that infant guts were completely sterile before birth and only became seeded during their journey through the birth canal, new research is upturning that old assumption and leading scientists now say that the “tenet that healthy fetuses are sterile is insane.” Bacteria is found in amniotic fluid, umbilical cord blood, and the placenta. Colonization of a fetus’ gut begins in the womb. Maternal probiotic usage directly affects the gut microbes of the fetus.

Do the “do’s” and don’t do the “don’t”s listed in yesterday’s post on leaky gut. The nutrients your body uses to support the gut barrier are likely the same ones your body uses to support your growing child’s gut barrier. The environmental triggers and stressors that support and impair gut health in your body are likely to have the same effect on the body growing in your womb.

Birth Considerations

If possible, have a vaginal birth. Microbial colonization may start in utero, but the most important exposure to bacteria occurs as the baby travels down the birth canal, through the vagina, and into the world. This only happens in natural vaginal birth.

Home birth might be optimal (but it’s not necessary). One study out of Holland found that kids who were born at home and exclusively breastfed had the most “beneficial” gut microbiome. If you’re comfortable with home birth and are due to have a low risk pregnancy, give it some consideration.

Avoid unnecessary c-sections. Do not avoid c-sections if they are medically necessary. But if you’re faced with the option of a c-section or a vaginal birth, consider that babies born to c-sections are more likely to have decreased microbial diversity, impaired immune responses to stimuli, and lower colonization by beneficial bacteria. Boys born via c-section are more likely to have Crohn’s disease and babies of both sexes born via c-section are more likely to develop celiac.

In the event of a c-section, give your baby probiotics. Studies show that breastfeeding after a c-section isn’t quite enough to make up the differences in gut flora, so an infant probiotic with the right strains can really come in handy. I also wonder if a vaginal swab from the mother applied to the baby’s mouth and body directly after a c-section would help properly inoculate the gut. Good luck getting your OB to agree to that one!

Postnatal Considerations

Breastfeed. This is the most important one. Breast milk contains probiotics that colonize your baby’s gut and prebiotics that feed the probiotics in your baby’s gut. Chances are, breast milk probably contains other compounds yet to be discovered that also have a beneficial effect on gut health. Be sure to eat a good diet, because the food and nutrients you eat will make it into your milk.

Try goat-based formula if you go that route. Formulas based on goat milk instead of cow milk (or soy) result in infant fecal bacteria most similar to fecal bacteria from breast-fed babies. That goat milk contains similar glycans as human milk could explain the similarity.

Look for formula with prebiotics. An important component of human breast milk are the human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), prebiotics that feed, nurture, and promote the establishment of healthy gut flora in the baby. HMOs aren’t yet commercially available, but some prebiotics have been shown to come fairly close. One recent trial found that an inulin-fos blend (this one, to be exact) promoted “a gut microbiota closer to that of breastfeeding.” Is it as good as breast milk? No. Better than nothing, though.

Let them play outdoors. Outdoor play is pro-gut for several reasons. If there’s sun out, your kid will get plenty of vitamin D – an important nutrient for the integrity of the gut lining. If they’re outdoors, they’re probably getting exposure to dirt. Dirt is full of microbes (both “good” and “bad”) and the human gut (having evolved in an unsterile, natural environment, i.e. the outdoors) is primed for constant, low level exposure to these soil-based organisms. Playing outdoors, making mud pies, and sampling the culinary offerings of garden soil all help seed the gut. And finally, kids who are allowed outdoor free play are less stressed, less anxious, and happier than kids who are not. Increased stress levels can wreak havoc on the gut by inducing intestinal permeability (PDF) and affecting the stability of microbial populations.

Let them play with other kids – even (or especially) the “dirty ones.” Provided you’ve been following as many of the previously mentioned steps as you can, your kid will have a robust immune system and a healthy microbiome that can handle and even benefit from exposure to other child-borne microbes.

Don’t freak out if they eat their boogers. The idea that eating boogers boosts immunity is intuitive, but unproven. One Canadian researcher actually wants to run a human trial to determine if it’s true or not. I don’t want parents to start home brewing booger smoothies drawn from healthy donor noses. That’s extreme (and disgusting). But if you see your kid pick his or her nose and eat it, don’t worry so much. It could be helping. Besides, they’ll do it anyway when you’re not looking.

Don’t demand antibiotics at the first hint of sickness. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: antibiotics have done us a lot of good, but they are extremely powerful tools that deserve respect rather than carelessness. New guidelines for childhood ear infections echo my concerns and actually urge caution when it comes to antibiotic prescriptions, citing research that shows most kids get over ear infections on their own within 2-3 days without antibiotics. And many childhood illnesses (like viral ones) don’t even respond to antibiotics, but parents still demand them anyway. Don’t be one of those parents.

Doing all these thing doesn’t guarantee good gut health for your baby, but based on the current levels of evidence available, it’s probably your best shot.

What did I miss? Got any other tips for parents interested in optimizing their baby’s gut health?

Thanks for reading.


TAGS:  gluten

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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101 thoughts on “How to Establish a Healthy Gut in Your Primal Baby”

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  1. My sister has been telling me about boogies boosting immunity for years lol

  2. It’s hard for us because my husband and I are both military and thus have very busy schedules. Getting enough outside ourselves is hard enough, not to mention the baby! I try and set aside at least 15 minutes, optimally 30, of time outside of supervised play time. This is good for parents without fences, and also of babies who are too little to play alone (like my 11 month old). That way we can all get outside to get sun, exercise and dirt without the worry of accidents or strangers. I would be outside for HOURS every day if I could, but I simply can’t and this is the best we can do. Also, we all supplement with Cod Liver Oil for extra vitamin D. The baby gets 1/2 tsp a day!

  3. Regarding babies “innoculated” with beneficial bacteria via vaginal birth… Is there really any proof of this, or is it just another of those overly-simplistic ideas that gets passed around but has no basis in fact? There are literally millions of kids who were delivered by Caesarian section who weren’t “impaired” as children and have grown up to be perfectly healthy individuals. I happen to know a few, who would undoubtedly laugh at the notion that they had an “inferior” birth.

    Babies do acquire plenty of bacteria from a variety of sources right from Day One. In fact it’s almost unavoidable since bacteria are everywhere. It could very well be one of the underlying reasons why they instinctively put everything in their mouths as they grow. I’ve seen pacifiers get dropped on a dirty floor and then been “cleaned off” by the mom putting it in her own mouth–probably not such a bad idea when you think about all the microbes being imparted from parent to child.

    Babies get held, they get kissed, they get dirty–they are literally crawling with microbes as soon as they’re born. If they don’t get it from the birth canal, they will soon have a full supply from everything else in this world.

    1. There are many studies that show that babies are optimally seeded through a vaginal birth vs. a C section. Actually, a Cesarean is actually associated with being seeded with a lot of pathogenic bacteria that is present in hospitals. Babies born via Cesarean have been shown to have higher rates of asthma, and a theory proposed for this is that it is due to their microbiotic exposure (or lack thereof) during a C-section.

      Babies do get a great deal of exposure to microbes just in life in general, but there is evidence that shows that the vaginal canal has a different microflora which is optimal to infant (and later, adult) health.

      A great post showing the recent research on this issue can be found here:

      1. The vaginal vs C-section difference is well established via mapping of microbial populations in newborns (see reference below for some excellent maps of the difference). And these differences are being increasingly shown to predispose/correlate with a range of health states.

        If you were able to see the few c-sectioners that you know within the context of a large scale study, you may find that you see some interesting patterns. Fortunately, because health is not as simple as the presence/absence of a particular bacteria, there are lots of things that can help make up for a less-than-ideal start to life.

        Recent studies have shown that bacterial populations (at least for now) are largely ‘set’ at birth, with only restricted room to move (‘poo transplants’ are one the fascinating ways being examined to address this). These individual differences in gut bacteria go a long way (though not all the way) to explaining why we all know someone who ate loads of crappy food, smoked like a chimney, drank like a fish, but never gained weight and lived to be a hundred – they got lucky with their gut bacteria; and we all know of someone who ate organic, never smoked, stayed trim and fit, and was struck down with cancer in their 30s – they got unlucky with their bugs.

        I have put in a lot of work to implement safe-guards with my c-section child – she glows with health when I do everything possible to support her microbiome, and falls apart otherwise.

        CMAJ. 2013 Mar 19;185(5):385-94. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.121189. Epub 2013 Feb 11.
        Gut microbiota of healthy Canadian infants: profiles by mode of delivery and infant diet at 4 months.
        Azad MB1, Konya T, Maughan H, Guttman DS, Field CJ, Chari RS, Sears MR, Becker AB, Scott JA, Kozyrskyj AL; CHILD Study Investigators.

        1. I also had a c-section and so I am very focused on making sure my baby gets the gut support he needs.

          I have used probiotics daily, but could you tell me what you do? I would love to hear how you support your little girl.

          Thank you

    2. An excerpt from:

      For example, Gronlund, et al 32 showed that the primary gut flora in infants born by cesarean delivery may be disturbed for up to 6 months after birth. Another study using culture based techniques showed that the mode of delivery was associated with differences in intestinal microbes 7 years after delivery. 33 The clinical relevance of these changes is unknown, and even longer follow-up is needed to establish how long-lasting these alterations of the primary gut flora can be.

      Nevertheless, there is accumulating evidence that intestinal bacteria play an important role in the postnatal development of the immune system. 30 Thus, if the intestinal flora develops differently depending on the mode of delivery, the postnatal development of the immune system might also be different. Available epidemiological data show that atopic diseases appear more often in infants after cesarean delivery than after vaginal delivery.34-37 The composition of enteric microbiota in early days of life seems, therefore, to be a very important factor for achieving and maintaining good health in the years to come. It follows that it is fundamental to identify more thoroughly the intestinal ecosystem of the newborn.

      I’m a believer in the hygiene hypothesis simply from my own anecdata that friends of mine who are hyper-vigilant about anything *gross* coming near their babies wind up with kids who have multiple allergies (some severe and life-threatening) and not suffering from one illness or another seems to be the very rare exception.

      I birthed all of mine at home, did breastfeed, only use medications when absolutely necessary, am a follower of the *out of sight/out of mind* theory when it comes to germs and their health issues are few and far between. My youngest is 5 and has never required a trip to the doctor outside of her newborn checkup 2 days after birth. I can count on both hands the number of doctor visits my other two (7 and 11) combined have had.

      It’s really hard to watch kids go through illnesses (one friend in particular is at the doctor’s every couple of months due to strep throat in her 2 kids) and I can’t help but think that if they hadn’t, from birth, been shielded from *gross* stuff yet had so much exposure to gut flora disrupting medications and foods, they wouldn’t be having such a hard time. 🙁

    3. It’s about seeding. There is strong evidence that C-section babies as a demographic are not “perfectly healthy,” as Armel mentioned. I remembered reading this section of this NYT article about a microbiome researcher:
      “At dinner, Knight told me that he was sufficiently concerned about such an eventuality that, when his daughter was born by emergency C-section, he and his wife took matters into their own hands: using a sterile cotton swab, they inoculated the newborn infant’s skin with the mother’s vaginal secretions to insure a proper colonization. A formal trial of such a procedure is under way in Puerto Rico.”


    4. I have also read that there are, in fact, obstetricians who are now deliberately “dosing” the skin of new babies born by c-section with swabs from the mother in an attempt to jump start colonization of beneficial bacteria.

      While the world is a dirty place, and babies do eventually get exposed to a lot of bacteria, it’s clear that the microbial community in the birth canal of a delivering mother is totally different than the microbes you might encounter in someone’s mouth, or off of the floor.

      There’s some really good information about this in Moises Velasquez Manoff’s book An Epidemic of Absence.

  4. A booger boosting smoothie…yeah I think I just threw up a little.

  5. One thing is missing: don’t give your baby food that undermines all the good things that you can be doing. Like processed junk, sugar and all the rest…..
    Great article!

    1. Yay for Nature Play! I used to go with my little boy to the Sydenham Hill Woods one (SE London).

  6. While I think most of this is great, I take high issue with the “home birth” suggestion. What exactly about the home birth in particular vs the exclusive breastfeeding would increase a better immune system? Is it the lack of drugs that a home birth would likely offer?

    It is completely possible to have a drug free birth at a hospital where you can have medical intervention in case it’s necessary. That’s exactly what I did, and I’m glad I didn’t listen to everyone suggesting a home birth because it was “more natural” and “better for the baby.” I was considered low risk and I still ended up having postpartum hemorrhaging. If I had done a home birth I might not be here typing this message.

    1. I think a homebirth would exclude exposing the baby to unwanted bacteria present in a hospital setting.
      Homebirth midwives are extensively trained in dealing with pp hemorrhage and carry pitocin with them.

  7. Another tip–stop it with the hand sanitizer. Seriously. I see parents all the time barking orders at their kids to use hand sanitizer after playing on the playground. Since they started taking carpets out of schools and adding hand sanitizer, kids have been getting sick more often. It is not normal for a kid to get sick every single week, but it seems to happen.

    1. Really good point–and a lot of those anti-microbial substances have triclosan, rather than something more benign like alcohol, so you’re dosing yourself with antibiotic every time you use them. It’s obvious in retrospect–something antibacterial would necessarily have antibiotic in it–but I had to have it pointed out to me. Hand sanitizer is appalling.

    2. The teachers at my daughter’s school are always pushing the hand-sanitzer in lieu of hand-washing before snacks. It always disgust me when kids blow their noses for five minutes (in the charming-miss-the-tissue way of 4-6 year-olds) and then squirt some hand-sanitizer on it and rub it all around. Then they eat snack (or touch toys/pencils/whatever). Yuck! Nothing like ingesting the stuff. I tell my daughter to decline and wash her hands with water (since they likely use anti-bacterial soap, as well). It is awful stuff and should not be in classrooms–I taught kindergarten for a long time and I know hand-washing with plain old soap can be tedious with 25 young ones, but it works.

    3. +1 about the hand sanitizer!
      At work we have a person who comes into our office (where there is a bottle on each desk) and uses it several times. I, being an old mother hen and all, tell him to make sure he washes his hands to get rid of what’s left. Better to just put some coconut oil on his hands but who, other than me, has that in their offices. Muwahahahahaha.

  8. I’m interested in the connection between a baby’s gut flora and all the vaccines they are given.

  9. I just had a successful home birth. (Actually rv birth.) Although I didn’t do it for my baby’s gut. I did it bc it didn’t want to fight for my rights to birth naturally in the hospital. It was safer and healthier for me to birth at home then be forced to have another csection bc the doctors were “uncomfortable” with me having a vbac. Never mind it was my second vbac. Anyway oddly enough my firstborn who was a csection and was the recipient of my poor diet at the time has the strongest immune system in our family. Hmmm??

    1. I have the same issue with my boys – my first son was born via csection with all of the typical medical interventions & his immune system is much stronger than that of my youngest son who was born via all natural VBAC. Go figure! Any connections on this?

      1. The connection is that medical science doesn’t know nearly as much as it thinks it does about microbes, babies, and gut flora.

      2. Since finding out about the connection between vag delivery and establishment of the gut flora of the baby, I’ve worried that I disadvantaged my son by having a csection. However (at 14), he has so-far been very healthy and very seldom gets sick…..contrary to my sister’s 4 kids, all delivered vaginally, with multiple health problems and constant illness. My guess is this: healthy gut flora in mum = healthy gut flora in baby: unhealthy gut flora in mum = unhealthy gut flora in baby. If you have dysbiosis and deliver vaginally, your baby will probably have dysbiosis too. If you have a csection, maybe your baby gets the chance to develop a healthier balance from other environmental input.

      3. I don’t think this is unusual. A relatively healthy woman who is pregnant for the first time has a body full of the proper vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and enzymes to produce a healthy baby. After this first baby is born her body is depleted. If she gets pregnant again very soon and does not eat enough nutrient dense foods to replenish herself, subsequent children will not be as healthy as the first. I have read (can’t remember where) that optimal child spacing with enough time to replenish the body with nutrient dense foods is 3 years or more. Most people do not wait this long to have another child.

  10. I craved and ate tons of citrus while pregnant with my daughter and she is perfectly healthy. I craved and ate tons of bread with my son and at 5 he was diagnosed with Aspergers. Information I wish I’d had 20 years ago…

  11. One more: do NOT follow the CW baby food intro (grain cereals at 4-6 months, processed purees 6-9 months, processed grain crunchies and small chopped “kids meal” stuff after that). You can puree fresh made things if you like, but it’s not needed. Instead, we offer small soft pieces of our real food: fruits, veggies, and meats, some time after 6 months old. If you have cheats with grains and dairy hold back on sharing that until later with baby. If your baby has a delicate gut or you feel the need to be extra careful, follow something like GAPS (first boiled/steamed veg and meat, broth, later fruits, later raw veg, later homemade yogurt).

  12. My additions would be that not only breastfeeding, but breastfeeding for *at least* 2 years is essential and the recommendation of the World Health Organization. Primal babies actually breastfed for up to 5-7 years on average.
    Also, an alternative to breastfeeding, if mom really cannot do so (women should have better access to lactation consultants to help with this, as it’s actually rare for a women to physically not be able to breastfeed) is to get donor milk, which is far superior to the goat formula.
    Also, skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth is essential, no matter how the child was born. And avoiding inductions, not using epidurals, taking childbirth education classes *outside* of the hospital, and hiring a doula and a midwife dramatically up women’s.chances of a vaginal birth and having success at breastfeeding.

      1. My DH was breastfed for 7yrs. Grew up in an African village. He was a last born, I agree not all babies in traditional settings would be BF for that long. They do know how to space their children but 5 yrs is a big gap. (and no, I don’t think tandem feeding was usual – correct me if someone knows better).

    1. How do you know primal babies breastfed until 5 or 7 years old? I would suggest that they weaned much earlier as the other children being born would need the milk more – I can’t imagine a primal mother breastfeeeding 4 or 5 children – she could just about cope with 2 or 3 at a push. Also the body stop producing lactase after 3 years so it may not be beneficial to keep feeding after this time as the child will not be able to digest milk any more.

      1. The 5 to 7 years stat comes from a study comparing breastfeeding duration among primates and their development/ maturation and such and then comparing that to humans. Humans take a long time to be self sufficient so it stands to reason our breastfeeding should be extensive too. A more recent book by Katherine A. Dettwyler, Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives, found a relationship between the baby’s length of nursing and the mother’s weight — it’s a pretty constant relationship among the primate groups — her analysis resulted in a range of 2.8-3.7 yrs. There’s a huffington post article with great graphs and such — google breastfeeding duration and primates. About 3 yrs old is totally consistent with more natural child spacing. And as a LLL leader 2.3-3.5 yrs is totally consistent with the majority of moms in my area who practice extended breastfeeding. Those who do not initiate weaning find the child naturally decreases feedings gradually until somewhere between 2-3 when mom usually initiates the final weaning.

    2. Do we really need a breastfeeding militant here? I had enough of people like you when I had my first child telling me what I should have done including three lactation “specialists”. I KNOW all the facts about breastfeeding but try having a three day labour where both you and your child nearly die followed by extreme PND and a body that refuses to produce breast milk due to severe post-tramautic stress, constant illness from a worn down immune system (and I tried the breast milk drugs, they didn’t work for me enough to produce enough milk for more than one full feed a day). Some women out there can’t breast feed for a few months, let alone a few years. Thank God for good formulas because without them my son wouldn’t have survived, probiotics or not.

      1. How about not taking things so personally -.- She said it was rare, not impossible. And other mothers would rather see your baby die than feed it? Wow.

  13. I’d like to highlight the advice to breastfeed as the number one best thing you can do for your baby’s gut development. One thing a lot of people don’t realise until they’ve had a baby is that breastfeeding is something you have to learn how to do, and it’s not always easy. And it’s a great idea to learn as much as you can before you have a baby, because when you have a tiny newborn screaming and it’s 3am, you don’t want to have to read twenty pages of advice on how to cope with a fast milk let-down reflex, or whatever. So for anyone who’s pregnant or considering getting pregnant, I’d recommend spending some time reading about what normal breastfeeding looks like, and about common breastfeeding problems and how to prevent and treat them. Dads too: the most important factor in whether a mother succeeds at breastfeeding is how helpful and supportive the dad is, so you need to know this stuff. The website has excellent and well-researched information about just about everything, if you need a place to start.

  14. With regard to letting your kids play with the “dirty” kids…. my kids ARE the dirty ones most of the time!

  15. Boogers: It’s what’s for dinner! Seriously, boogers are not just for kids. Grownups can eat boogers too. I prefer compost, but in a pinch, say when traveling, boogers come in handy.

  16. I was always told as a child to keep away from the kids who ran wild and played in open fields and puddles, and that it would apparently make me sick. I avoided their precautions anyway and turned out to be one of the healthiest kids.

    I always think kids should be allowed to develop immunity and not smothered by antibiotics the minute they let out a cough.

  17. I made the goat milk formula for my daughter since she was 3 weeks old until 18 months – she is healthy as a horse!!

    1. I’d love to know how you avoided constipation. My daughter bound up tight on goat milk.

        1. I currently Breastfeed my 3 month old daughter. Due to some feeding difficulties we would like to supplement with formula. After learning that goats milk was closer to human milk I became interested in incorporating it into her diet around 6 months when we plan to start supplementing.So I started doing research, and I found the DIY recipe on Westin A. Price, but then read the quote below on a different MDA article

          “There are also recipes for homemade formula, but it’s crucial in these circumstances to consult your pediatrician. For newborns and young babies, I would recommend conventional formula with DHA and ARA. (I’m not any fan of the formula companies, but infant nutrition involves a whole constellation of considerations. As much as I despise some of the industry marketing practices, the formula companies are closely regulated, and nutrient/hydration requirements have been precisely figured.)”

          In the same article he advises to avoid soy all together, which makes sense but when you read the label all formula contains soy. I’m confused about the conflicting advice. Any ideas?!

          Read more:

        2. Madeline (below) for some reason I can’t reply to your post so I’m replying to my own.

          My only response is that I trusted my own instinct and wisdom.

  18. Premastication – adults chewing foods like carrots and meats for their babies and toddlers can help seed the little one’s digestive tract. Of course, to do any good the adult needs to have beneficial bacteria residing in the mouth…

    I do this for my 11 month old.

    1. I did that as well for my second child. It just felt so amazingly natural. Really grossed out anybody that was watching. I did offer it to her with my hands, not like mouth to mouth like Alicia Silverstone who gained a lot of attention a few years ago in the news.
      It’s the best way out there to get meat into just the right size of pieces, extra chewing when she first started and not so much as she got older.
      I had to add so much liquid to make home made puree meat that it was very messy. And the store bought meat stuff tastes absolutely awful, it’s no wonder most babies are picky about it.

  19. This is not an issue of self-blame, so please don’t think that….it’s more of a scientific observation.
    I am quite sure that my absolutely horrible diet during my son’s pregnancy contributed to his autism. At the time I was eating extreme SAD, and sick pretty much the whole pregnancy. I could not breastfeed without extensive pain (internal.. it was not a latching issue). Then, he joined our horrible SAD way of eating until he was about 4 yrs of age and we made the diet/symptoms connection. At 3, my son was diagnosed with autism. We have had remarkable improvements with dietary changes to a paleo/GAPS diet. Therefore, I believe my diet prior to, during and after pregnancy is a large part of his problems.
    This article really hits home to me and reassures my theory.
    I am saddened when the main advice for morning sickness is to eat crackers, yet, I found out during the second pregnancy that it was the carbs all along that were making me ill during the first pregnancy, and also any time I ate carby things during my second pregnancy, I would get very sick.

    1. Allison, if a SAD prenatal diet were responsible for autism, half the world would be autistic. And it isn’t. I think you are beating yourself up for something your less-than-optimal diet very likely didn’t cause–and you shouldn’t be. The developing fetus will take whatever nutrition it requires, even at the expense of the mother’s health if necessary. Appropriate diet can and does help autistic children, but autism itself is caused by factors other than a poor prenatal diet.

      BTW, plain old carb-laden saltines have worked very well for millions of women during bouts of morning sickness with no ill effects on either mother or child.

        1. Nonsense, Ed. Unless a woman is living in a place like Ethiopa or Sudan and literally starving to death from lack of any kind of food, nutrition for the fetus will be present within the mother’s body. There are very few people in industrialized nations that fall into a zero-nutrition category, even on what we term a SAD diet.

        2. Nobody said anything about zero nutrition. Building a baby is a very intensive process that needs a lot of raw materials. Claiming that those raw materials are available in foods normally consumed by people following the SAD is painfully naive. If you feel that nutritional needs are met with the SAD, why are you even on this page?

        3. For example, why are newborns given a Vitamin K shot as soon as they’re born? If the human species were prone to hemorrhaging upon healthy birth we’d be extinct by now. It’s because of a nutritional deficiency in the mother which is caused by her diet. Poor diet while pregnant (or poor health preceding the pregnancy) isn’t the only cause for developmental disorders, but it’s certainly not setting the baby up for success.

      1. No, this is not a case of beating myself up. I said “contributed” to. In a case where a child is on the fence to becoming gut induced autistic then receives a blast of yeast and other un-optimal bacteria he will become autistic. This is how dietary changes can “fix” the child

        1. So the child received less than optimal bacteria in the womb and vaginal birth, then does not receive much(or in many childrens cases, any) breast milk to promote good flora, then receives a diet of rice cereal (at least in my case I made home made meat, veggie and fruit baby food, but many just buy commercial foods). Then moves on to cows milk, macaroni and cheese, noodles, pizza, (trust me, our diet was the complete opposite of optimal)…. a child with genetic markers for autism doesn’t stand much of a chance.
          There may be holes in my theory, but I am 100% sure based on my own observations and hours upon hours of research into the subject that it is linked.

      2. Why do you think the rate of autism is increasing? Sure there is more diagnosis, but the fact is, so many parents out there now are loading themselves with high carb meals, have their own digestive issues, and then have children and pass on these same poor bacteria to their child.
        That’s why autism is a 1st world affliction.

        Sure, people think crackers work well…. but my personal opinion is that it will make them feel better for the moment and then contribute to more morning sickness.

  20. For parents who complain about not having enough time to spend with their kids, to go play outside etc I really have to ask: if you’re so busy why bother having kids in the first place?? Make time, figure it out, you owe it to your kids!

  21. Be aware to not microwave breast milk as it has been shown to increase ecoli content as well as damage the probiotic content.

  22. It’s unfair and unreasonable for mothers to decide eating carbs contributed to a child’s autism.

    We don’t yet know what causes autisms to develop. But it doesn’t stop mothers being blamed or blaming themselves. What good does that do?

    Anecdote isn’t data.
    But for what it’s worth I conceived and grew my baby whilst low-carb/wheat/grain free, had a drug free home birth and skin to skin after. Exclusively breast fed until 6months. Weaned with organic meat and veg. Still breast feed him now aged 3.

    He’s gorgeous. He’s healthy, bright and loving.
    And he has high functioning autism.

    1. Thank you for saying this. I have a similar situation, wheat and sugar free diet whilst pregnant, natural drug-free birth, breastfeeding etc and at one week old my son started screaming and barely stopped for 6 months. He was diagnosed with autism aged 3 and is now 5 years old. I could have blamed it on his less than optimal start on solid food (baby rice as recommended) if it hadn’t been for that initial screaming months when he was exclusively breastfed. Many mothers of diagnosed autistic children report that they were either unusually placid or extremely fretful as tiny babies. Whilst I do everything possible to support my boys (who both have developmental difficulties) including feeding them a GAPS/Primal diet, I still fight not to apportion myself too much blame – maintaining a primal diet for everyone as a working mum is stressful enough!

    2. In my case it is not an issue of blame. My opinion is formed by hours upon hours of research and other parents out there coming to the same conclusions about dietary influences on their children.
      Our very first inkling that diet may play a part was when we would run out of milk before the end of the week (we had pasteurized cows milk) and we could communicate with our child until we purchased more milk on Sunday. It took a long time to make that connection, and we decided to try him on no milk at all and the difference was amazing!!
      After the milk was removed from the diet we made the same connection with multiple other foods.
      And then I got pregnant again, and only got morning sickness when consuming high carb foods. Yes, I realize every pregnancy is different.

  23. Great points and topic. I know I can do a better job getting my 3 kids outside and in the dirt, good reminder. Also the antibiotic issue can’t be stressed enough! It seems like parents are often the ones asking for them “just in case” and not realizing what they are actually doing. I hope more doctors get on board with this. The tip of avoiding hand sanitizer is another good one. Germ phobia is really hurting us.

  24. Hi. I am raising my primal baby exactly this way. He is awesome healthy and growing beautifully.
    I worry about my next baby though as I am just not in the best shape as I was pre pregnancy as I was with the first. I know my first baby had got the best health that I could offer and I’m trying to get healthier fitter and lose some weight before I get pregnant again but nothing seems to be working.

  25. My incredibly healthy wife grew up on a farm in appalachia and “drank from the cowpond” when she got thirsty. She’s always said that “a kid needs to eat some dirt”.

    On the vaccine thing, a kid gets exposed to thousands of different antigens (foreign substances that elicit immunity) just living. A dozen more or less from vaccinations is maybe a one percent difference. As a doc I’ve seen the kids come in with the bad diseases: whooping cough, measles, etc. Are vaccines totally safe? of course not. NOTHING is totally safe. The odds are better for people who’ve been immunized. All of my kids got theirs. I’m up to date on mine.

    And the old urban legend that vaccines cause autism is even worse than an urban legend; it was out-and-out scientific fraud. Terrible; the guy who did it should be tried for homicide.

  26. when I was a kid, we had a bath once a week. Washed our faces and hands daily but no lengthy daily showers. ( when I became teenagers I of course started showering every day ).
    We grew up in Poland before there was anything even remotely resembling ready made food. so everything was made from scratch. Although we had bread, it was covered in lard and bacon pieces instead of spreads. We bought our saurkraut from a barrel in a corner shop. Nothing was processed. I was outdoors most of the day eating bugs, getting dirty, picking up everything and cuddling every semi wild cat and dog.
    I loved my childhood. I had millions of friends and was only dragged home for evening meal and to watch ONE childrens show, then went to sleep.
    We ate hearts, brains, cows stomachs, chicken stomachs, livers, kidneys and so on.Sausages were home made. Even beef mince was made at home with a mechanical grinder straight from cuts from the butcher.
    We went camping catching fish, drinking water from the lake ( boiled ) and I turned out ok.
    I don’t have a single allergy. At the age of 11 my family moved to Sweden that by then was just like any other Western country. ready made soups, ready made sauces, tons of TV channels and so on. Almost 60% of my class mates had some sort of allergy or sensitivity.
    I don’t know of any studies but I can tell from my own experience that being exposed to dirt, weird foods, home cooked meals definitely made me stronger.
    I grew to a 6’2 male, very athletic and active and didn’t taste a ready made meal until i was 13-14 I think.
    There is definitely something to this.
    although we were exposed to grains I seemed to handle it well ( our bread went stale in the evening if it was bought in the morning – no preservatives I guess ).
    I look at my brothers kids now – both diagnosed with ADHD, both taking amphetamines (Ritalin ), have rashes and are hyper active. Their staple food is “healthy” cornflakes, sugary juices and ready made meals heated up in the micro….
    they have 1 friend each, spending most of their time on their ipads. Alone.
    Sad 🙁

  27. I think that’s your media speaking. I suspect most kids outside have a greater risk of getting stung by a bee than kidnapped by crazy, baby-snatching, human trafficing pedophiles. In a pinch, one could bring a bucket of dirt in the house for them to play in (just make sure to get the kind right next to the old house that has some extra lead in it). Phew! Growing up is rough these days.

  28. Sorry I just had to comment. I laughed out very loud when you said im not recommending you make booger smoothies. Made my day

  29. A great way to clear out the wrong pathogens and clear the slate for the good bacteria is to take Immunoglobulin Y which is the antibodies found in chicken egg yolk. While fighting off pathogens a hen’s immune system generates millions of antibodies and also puts them into the developing egg yolk for the chick to have when it’s born. Chicks obviously don’t breastfed and need an aggressive defense right away. The antibodies are also effective for roughly 450 different human related pathogens. This is another reason why eggs are good for you. However when eaten with the rest of the egg most of the antibodies are digested in the stomach.

    There is a unique and new consumer product available which is capsule of purified Immunoglobulin Y, it’s called Vector450. Because it’s in a capsule and not combined with the rest of the egg components, when taken on an empty stomach the capsule passes quickly to the small intestine and the antibodies go to work binding to and eliminating pathogens. You can take probiotics with it since the antibodies will not bind to the good bacteria.
    The benefits are a much improved gut health and it acts as an immune modulator which means it supports a depressed immune system and calms down a overreactive immune system. That can have great results with minimizing allergies and relieving some autoimmune symptoms. Very cool results!

  30. There are a number of interesting studies regarding pets and the development of the immune system, especially with regard to exposure to allergens. It seems to be that kids, especially 1-2 years of age, that are growing up with animals can certainly can reap many benefits despite the “hygiene hypothesis” saying elsewise.

    So there you have it, dog and cat lovers.

  31. “Do not avoid c-sections if they are medically necessary” Thank you Mark 🙂

    In response to several of the comments above… Instead of trying to make women who had c-sections feel guilty and suggesting what they ‘should’ have done to avoid it, try giving some helpful advice as to what they can do now.

    I ate (mostly!) primal before and during my pregnancy and had every intention of having an natural vaginal birth (and there was nothing to suggest I couldn’t), but things didn’t pan out that way.

    Thankfully I had done some reading about gut health and could be proactive after my baby was born (breastfeeding, probiotics, etc.), but most women don’t have this information.

    1. I agree with Leonie, I would love to know more positive things I can do to support my baby who had to be delivered by emergency c-section, despite having hoped for a homebirth (a hospital c-section was something I’d never wanted unless my baby was at risk). I already worry about enough things, it would be great to get more help and advice on what I can do now that my baby’s birth was out of my hands.

  32. I didn’t read through the comments, so I hope it is not redundant to HIGHLY recommend “The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care” by Sally Fallon Morell and Thomas S. Cowan, MD. I would call it THE #1 resource not only for healthy baby guts, but for everything from healthy fertility and conception to healthy pregnancy and birth to healthy adolescence. I don’t agree with all the parenting philosophies, but it has been my oft-consulted nutrition bible for my (home-birthed) one-year-old, and my lifeline for refusing conventional treatments at the doctor’s office (both for me during pregnancy AND for baby). It’s an extremely informative (thus enjoyable) read.

  33. Letting kids play outdoors and getting “dirty” is huge. Also, playing with other kids is a major part in the psychological development of the child.

    I think this generation of kids is wayyy too coddled and I wonder if the next generation is gonna be a bunch of pansies…

  34. A really well thought-through piece, and now I won’t feel so grossed out when my son eats his booger because it is good for him!

    1. Haha, I joke and go EWWW! when my daughter eats her boogers. Now she does it to make me have a reaction.
      I don’t really care if she eats her own boogers, but I really don’t like it when she tries to feed them to me! lol

  35. My suggestion is to not bathe that little newborn until the umbilical cord falls off and then not every day after. I don’t know if I only know this from my home birth midwives or if it is general knowledge. I was told to let the healthy bacteria do their good work. My last baby was a primal pregnancy and so far his first two years has been primal. He is a happy, healthy, brilliant, dirty child. His favorite treat is “watu keefu” water keefer”.

  36. Most ear infections can be cured with hydrogen peroxide. A few drops in the ear a few times will kill off the infection. Much easier and cheaper. No need for dr appointment and antibiotics.

    As a kid I was often on antibiotics for ear infections and strep throat. Too bad. Good news is my kids have never needed antibiotics for the rare ear infections they have had. (Not that I am against them, they are necessary in some cases)

  37. I am the only one of the family who was born via (unnecessary ) C-section, I am also the only one who has celiac…….

  38. Breastfeed is necessary thing for each newborn as it give all the essential nutrients and help the child grow healthy.

  39. A few questions/thoughts –
    My son was born naturally in a hospital. Because he had passes meconium before his birth, he was given IV antibiotics for 3 days after he was born. Would this have had any effect on his intestinal bacteria?

    He is 10 now and we have a lot of problems with his ADHD, he is very hyper and cannot focus without medication. I am working on his diet, cut WAY back on processed foods and sugars. No more cereal for breakfast, we have eggs and bacon or sausage, added organic yougart (made on a local farm, no sugar added), raw milk, no more candy/cookies we have fruit and berries for snacks, and am thinking about starting some keifer as well.

    Could these issues stem from the antibiotics at birth and do you have any suggestions about more things I can do to get his gut back in order?

  40. You certainly do need to be shown how to breastfeed. My first child was born in an English military hospital in Germany and they had wonderful German nursery nurses and one showed me how to breastfeed. We were also in hospital for 10 days after our first birth and 7 days after the second one. Plently of time to sort out any problems with breastfeeding and no stress from other household chores.

  41. As far as cleaning around the house the parents should keep in mind that clean doesn’t mean sterile. Exposure to microbes should not be limited to outside.

  42. We are getting ready to start our family, so posts like this are exactly what I’m looking for right now! Thanks, Mark!

  43. I would just add that fermented and cultured foods are a great way to boost their good gut bacteria. If your gut is balanced with good and bad bacteria, the need for sugar will be decreased. That’s a win win situation for your child!

  44. “…dieting during a pregnancy can be hard on everyone involved and not generally recommended.”

    A bit unhelpful. What if you switch to highly nutritious primal way of eating and happen to lose weight? You don’t need to ‘go on a diet’ to have fantastic results remember?

  45. My daughter is eleven months old. I had a c-section 38 hours after my water broke and after an hour of pushing. The OB said her head was too big to fit through my pelvis, although the top of her head did squeeze through, the bottom of her head was stuck. I breastfed exusively for six months and she still gets 80-90% of her calories from breast milk. I only recently learned about the importance of babies getting bacteria from the birth canal. Is it too late for a probiotic to make a difference? Would she have still gotten bacteria during labor? Is there anything else I can do to reduce her risk?

    Also, for my next pregnancy, every health proffessional I’ve talked to says I should not attempt a VBAC because they say I probably won’t suceed, and since the odds are high that I’ll need a C-section, they think trying for a VBAC would be a waste of time. I feel like I want to try because I feel like it would be better for the baby to at least go into labor naturally.
    Lastly, are there any recomendations to increase the odds of a natural birth? I got a ton of exercise during my last pregnancy and still had a very long, difficult labor.

  46. If You could PreEmptively Stop the Progression of your Infant’s Allergy SnowBall from Rolling to the likelihood of Allergic ASTHMA … Would You ?

    Begin Future Allergy / Allergic Asthma Momma (maybe Dad ) on 100% Natural GOOy CHEWy 3+ mo. before Conception > Momma on GOOy during Preg & Nursing > Infant Birth …

    Thereby ..
    PreEmptively Stop & Melt Your Infant’s Genetic Predisposition Allergy SnowBall Before it even has a chance to get Rolling.

  47. “Don’t become obese?” Really? For me it has never been a matter of choice, since I put myself on low meat diets , low sugar diets, low food diets from age 24 after I read “Low Blood sugar and You”, The only ones that helped at all were highfat, low carbs, high protein. But after retaking my childhood shots to get into nursing school in my 40’s all bets were off. i have had no control over what my body decided to do since then. Chronic diarrhea has been my constant companion and it has damaged my teeth, my guts, my adrenals, my thyroid, and no doubt my internal bacteria.
    Some things help a little, nothing helps a lot, and the fat gut remains with me. One of the ways the adrenal problem manifests and the info sites say it is 50% of adrenal patients- is nausea and vomiting- I feel like that sometimes half the time- and I still have a fat gut throughout. The only time I recently felt better and lost weight was when I wasn’t working and started on the methylfolate 4 mg a day- I lost weight and was actually able to eat and like it. So here I was eating and losing weight anyway. When I started working and working nights no less, the n/v and diarrhea all raged anew. There is a LOT more to obesity than just telling oneself we won’t get fat. It’s complicated.

  48. Hi, my baby was born vaginally, however had the meconium aspiration as there was meconium when my waters broke. Do you know if she still received my good bacteria or was it removed with the aspirator?
    Thank you!

  49. C-section babies can benefit from keeping skin to skin contact with their mother ASAP after the birth (or next best is mother’s partner – directly on their skin, if mother is unavailable for medical reasons) – and importantly LESS contact from staff and visitors in the hospital setting. As far as the vaginal swab/colonisation goes, one doesn’t need one’s OB present to DIY – she or he will move on to other things soon enough.

    On a different note – if Group B strep protocols include IV antiobiotics during labour, consider self treatment plans pre-labour (probiotics/garlic etc.) and bone up on the risk factors for GBS disease in newborns (gestational age, size, length of time waters are broken etc.), so an informed decision on whether or not to decline the antibiotics during labour can be made.

  50. any thoughts on GBS and the need for Antibiotics during labor?
    when do you start a new born on Probiotics?

  51. Please more specifically address BABIES getting IV antibiotics at birth/newborn from a serious infection and how to heal their gut.

    My daughter had mastitis. Yes *she* did. Not me. She was hospitalized for 36 hours on IV antibiotics then sent home with an oral she mostly vomited. She was two weeks old.

    We only breastfed never formula. She’s now still breastfeeding but supplementing daily with organic baby food nonGMO project or some of our table food.

    Her eczema has only worsened lately. It’s all over her trunk front and back.

    What brand of probiotic should I try to give her directly?

    I’ve been taking a vaginal health 50 billion probiotic during pregnancy and postpartum.

    She’s now 11 months old.

    She wakes often and grunts and screams randomly. A lot.

    She’s very intelligent and mobile. Walked, sat up and crawled early and got 8 teeth in first 8 months.

    She’s never had dairy. I’m dairy free actually.

    Please offer advice to the moms of babies who had IV antibiotics and how best to give probiotics and baby diet dos and donts.

    1. Additionally, never vaccinated either. So issues can’t be traced to that. No medications.

  52. I would add lay off the hand sanitizer and antibacterial soaps! I know too many moms who use them religiously with themselves and their kids.

  53. I have dysbiosis and missing strains of probiotics. Does this mean baby would only get the strains of probiotics I have and breast milk wouldn’t supply beneficial strains I don’t have?