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Your Baby's Microbiome

The Critical Role of Vaginal Birth and Breastfeeding for Lifelong Health

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Health & Wellness

From the Directors of the Award-Winning Documentary Microbirth

At least two amazing events happen during childbirth.

There’s the obvious main event, which is the emergence of a new human into the world. But there’s another event taking place simultaneously, a crucial event that is not visible to the naked eye, an event that could determine the lifelong health of the baby. This is the seeding of the baby’s microbiome, the community of “good” bacteria that we carry with us throughout our lives.

The seeding of the microbiome, along with breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact, kick-starts the baby’s immune system and helps protect the infant from disease across a lifetime. Researchers are discovering, however, that interventions such as the use of synthetic oxytocin, antibiotics, C-sections, and formula feeding interfere with, or bypass completely, the microbial transfer from mother to baby. These bacteria are vital for human health, and science has linked an imbalance in the human microbiome with multiple chronic diseases.

Drawing on the extensive research they carried out for their documentary film Microbirth, authors Toni Harman and Alex Wakeford reveal a fascinating new view of birth and how microscopic happenings can have lifelong consequences, for ourselves, our children—and our species as a whole.

REVIEWS AND PRAISE

Publishers Weekly-

Filmmaker couple Harman and Wakeford, who made the documentary Microbirth, share important information about infant health and the microbiome that they’ve learned from the “A-team of experts” interviewed for their movie. Each chapter title takes the form of a question, such as “What is the Human Microbiome?” and “What Do Bacteria Have to Do with Birth?” The human microbiome, the authors explain in the introduction, consists of the trillions of microorganisms (mostly bacteria) that live on and in the body, and its most critical period of formation is around childbirth. Chapter one further addresses where these bacteria reside and what they do, as well as their relationship with antibiotics. Subsequent chapters reveal that during vaginal birth, the baby is exposed to many beneficial microbes, that formula lacks key microbe-related ingredients in breast milk, and that babies born via C-section are often not exposed to the mother’s vaginal or intestinal microbes. Harman and Wakeford also delve into epigenetics, bacteria’s role in the immune system, and options for mothers who can’t breastfeed or have vaginal deliveries. This is a no-frills, easily comprehensible book that conveys the essentials of Harman and Wakeford’s research into childbirth.

“You thought you were human. But you’re actually a multi-species ecosystem. We all cohabitate with bacteria, fungi, protists, and even microscopic animals, and scientists are discovering that the way we treat the microbial companions that live in us and on us has a lasting impact on our health. Exploring what we know about the role symbionts play in childbirth and the early days of a baby’s life, Your Baby’s Microbiome is a fascinating read for anyone interested in what it means to be human.”--Jennifer Margulis, PhD, award-winning journalist; author of Your Baby, Your Way; coauthor, with Paul Thomas, MD, of the bestselling The Vaccine-Friendly Plan

“For expectant families, this is the must-read book of this generation. As an advocate for parents, focusing on how the maternal environment changes the long-term health outcomes for the baby, this book is adding a critical piece to the puzzle of health for our children. The ‘seeding and feeding’ of a child’s microbiome could potentially be one of the most important lessons for parents. This timely information should be included as part of every childbirth education and newborn care class. Your Baby’s Microbiome will help parents truly make informed decisions about how and where they give birth and how they feed and care for their baby. It is a must for every woman giving birth."--Laurel Wilson, IBCLC, CLE, CLD, CCCE, coauthor of The Attachment Pregnancy

“A real life sci-fi with implications that touch each one of us and all future generations. My eyes opened wide at Toni Harman and Alex Wakeford’s documentary MicroBirth, and now their book invites you deeper into understanding the problem, the science, and the solutions calling us into action.

Your Baby’s Microbiome is essential reading for every expectant parent, grandparent, and anyone who works with or cares about childbirth, and the health and well-being of the next generations. It opens the door to what our intuition already knows—that disturbing nature’s well-orchestrated design in childbirth has short- and long-range health risks. You can make a difference and turn this potential health disaster around. Knowledge is power, and Toni and Alex have put the power into your hands.

“It’s time to listen to Mother Nature and question whether we’ve strayed too far from our instincts and nature. In an effort to improve maternity care, we have tipped the scales too far and need to find balance again. The stakes are too high to ignore the science, wisdom, and intuition that Your Baby’s Microbiome shows us. Nature has a plan and disturbing it with overuse of surgery should be done with the greatest caution. When Cesarean section is needed, it must include care to seed a baby’s microbiome.

“This book will give you the tools and insights to make sure you are prepared to provide a healthy microbiome in every situation to every baby. Written with great care and compassion, there is no need to feel guilty for what we have done in the past, but now that we know more, it’s time to change!

Your Baby’s Microbiome is a unique blend of text and film clips that takes you on a journey into the future of health, understanding that the day and way we are born does make a difference! You deserve to prepare to give birth to your baby with knowledge, power, and understanding of how birth choices and the care you receive matter on your baby’s short- and long-term health and well-being. I recommend Your Baby’s Microbiome to all who care about our future health.”--Debra Pascali-Bonaro, founder and president, Pain to Power; director of the award-winning documentary Orgasmic Birth: The Best-Kept Secret; cowriter of Orgasmic Birth: Your Guide to a Safe, Satisfying, and Pleasurable Birth Experience

“Only in recent years has the ‘microbiome’ of the baby come to the attention of the obstetric and birthing communities. I believe that midwives and birth activists have come to be much more aware of its importance than doctors themselves because to acknowledge the essential need for the baby’s body to be colonized with its mother’s microflora rather than that of strangers entails making all efforts possible to avoid Cesarean section and to facilitate normal vaginal birth, immediate skin-to-skin contact of mother and newborn, and breastfeeding. While obstetricians have certainly come in recent decades to understand the importance of breastfeeding, they continue to perform Cesareans on 32 percent of American birthing women and appear to be making no efforts to reduce that extremely high rate. I believe that if parents come to understand the findings presented in this excellent and informative book, they themselves will make greater efforts to achieve vaginal birth and to insist on the mother’s hands to be the first to touch the newborn in order to bring him or her straight to the breast—or, even better, to allow the baby the chance to inch its own way up the mother’s body, thereby empowering itself at the very beginning of life and colonizing with her microflora all the way. I hope this extremely useful and informative book will be widely distributed and widely read, and that its findings will change birthing practice in this country and around the world!”--Robbie Davis-Floyd PhD, senior research fellow, Department of Anthropology, University of Texas Austin; author of Birth as an American Rite of Passage; lead editor of Birth Models That Work

“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 inspiring to the general public. We now know ways to support the role of healthy microbes in our bodies and in our environment to improve our lifelong health and well-being.”--Penny Simkin, author, doula, and birth educator

“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; author of The Human Superorganism

“How we give birth and feed our babies should be choices, not something for which we should have to fight for support. A huge ‘thank you’ to Toni Harman and Alex Wakeford for adding to a critical perspective on the individual and global impacts of some of those choices, in hopes that this conversation will keep going—pushing our maternity care systems to support physiological processes, as well as medicalized ones.”--Cristen Pascucci, founder, Birth Monopoly; cocreator, Exposing the Silence Project; vice president, Improving Birth (2012–2016)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Toni Harman

Toni Harman

Toni Harman and Alex Wakeford are professional filmmakers who met at the London Film School more than twenty years ago. Since then, they’ve been making films together.

Over recent years, they have made four feature-length films that have been distributed internationally, including Credo (2008, released as The Devil’s Curse by Lionsgate in the United States), a psychological thriller; Doula! (2010); and Freedom for Birth (2012), a documentary about human rights in childbirth.

Their most recent film, Microbirth (2014)—about how birth impacts a baby’s lifelong health—won the Grand Prix Award at the Life Sciences Film Festival in Prague.

 

CONNECT WITH THIS AUTHOR

One World Birth on Twitter
One World Birth's Website
Micro Birth's Website
Micro Birth on Facebook
One World Birth on Facebook

Alex Wakeford

Alex Wakeford

Toni Harman and Alex Wakeford are professional filmmakers who met at the London Film School more than twenty years ago. Since then, they’ve been making films together.

Over recent years, they have made four feature-length films that have been distributed internationally, including Credo (2008, released as The Devil’s Curse by Lionsgate in the United States), a psychological thriller; Doula! (2010); and Freedom for Birth (2012), a documentary about human rights in childbirth.

Their most recent film, Microbirth (2014)—about how birth impacts a baby’s lifelong health—won the Grand Prix Award at the Life Sciences Film Festival in Prague.

CONNECT WITH THIS AUTHOR

One World Birth on Twitter
One World Birth's Website
Micro Birth's Website
Micro Birth on Facebook
One World Birth on Facebook

AUTHOR VIDEOS

MICROBIRTH - Official Trailer

The 60 minute award-winning documentary MICROBIRTH explores the origins of the microbiome, the trillions of bacteria that live on and in us that could be critical for human health.

LSFF 2014 interview: Toni Harman and Alex Wakeford

The LSFF 2014 Grand Prix with the financial prize of EUR 3000 goes to the British film Microbirth directed by Toni Harman and Alex Wakeford. The film outlines the world of microorganisms present in the human body that constitute its microbiome. During childbirth these bacteria colonise the body of the newborn baby and activate its immune system. The latest research shows that natural birth is necessary for the organism to be colonised by the “right” set of microorganisms and that interventions, such as inducing labour or Caesarean section, disrupt this process, which can have a negative effect for the whole development and health of the individual.

The Microbiome Effect - Introduction

The Microbiome Effect - Introduction

Your Baby's Microbiome

Pages:208 pages
Size: 5.5 x 8.5 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603586955
Pub. Date February 20, 2017

Available In/Retail Price

Paperback, 208 pages, $19.95