Do You Get Your Microbiome From Your Mother?

Do You Get Your Microbiome From Your Mother?

The news of a baby's birth incites immense joy and pride, and everyone gathers around to compare the baby's features to their parents.

“Oh, she’s got your blue eyes.” “He has his father’s silky hair.” And so goes the description! While many of us are happy to see our mini-versions, the question of whether they have a healthy gut escapes from our minds.

Do you know you get your microbiome from your mother? Read on to learn how infants inherit microbiomes from their mothers and how it impacts their growth. 

We know that we all have a microbiome inside our bodies that is home to different microbes, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Although we cannot see them with our naked eye, they greatly affect our overall health and wellness.

So, it’s natural to wonder how babies acquire their microbiome. Is it present in babies when they are in the womb, or do they inherit the microbiome after their birth?

Like how parents pass down their genes to us, mothers also transfer microbes to their babies. In this blog post, we’ll address how you get your microbiome from your mother.

So, get ready to unlock the secret behind the microbial bond between the mother and the baby!

How do babies get their microbiome from the mother?

According to a study published in Cell Host and Microbe, babies inherit nearly 60% of their mothers' microbiome within the first 30 days of their lives.

While in the womb, babies are in a protected area and, hence, do not encounter microbes during those nine months. Moreover, exposing the foetus to bacteria can be deadly. Therefore, we can assume babies get their microbiome from the mother after birth.

Contrary to this belief, recent research suggests the presence of particles formed by bacteria in the placenta, possibly hinting at the shaping of the microbiome before birth in babies.

As babies stay in the sterile womb, this finding is a breakthrough in the medical field. However, more studies are underway to prove this point.

When babies come out of the womb and travel through the birth canal through normal delivery, they come into contact with bacteria, giving them the first traces of their mother’s microbiome.

These microbes colonise the baby’s gut, laying the foundation for their future gut health.

Vaginal birth vs. caesarean section

The transfer of microbes from the mother to the baby occurs differently in vaginal birth and caesarean section (C-section).

It is believed that babies born through vaginal delivery receive a significant dose of microbes from their mothers than those born via C-section.

This is because babies born vaginally are exposed to a diverse set of microbes present in the birth canal, which differs from the microbial exposure for C-section babies.

However, we can bridge this gap in the initial dose of microbes in babies after birth. Apart from the gut and the vagina, maternal microbiome is found on the skin and mammary glands.

While breastfeeding, the maternal microbiome gets transferred to the baby. Additionally, breast milk contains a lot of prebiotics, which fosters the growth and development of good bacteria in the baby’s gut.

The direct skin-to-skin contact between the mother and the baby also leads to the transfer of skin microbes and establishes the infant’s microbiome.

Significance of maternal microbiome

maternal microbiome


Though you get your microbiome from your mother after birth, several factors influence this transfer, indirectly affecting your health as an infant. Let’s look at how the maternal microbiome plays a significant role in promoting the infant’s health.

Mother’s microbiome shapes the baby's immune system and metabolic development: As the babies receive the maternal microbiome, their developing immune system learns to differentiate between good and harmful bacteria, promoting healthy immune responses and potentially reducing the risk of allergies and autoimmune diseases.

These microbes also influence how the baby extracts energy from food and regulates weight gain. A healthy balance of gut bacteria is linked to better metabolic health in the long run.

Impact of maternal diet, health, and antibiotics on the baby’s microbiome: A mother's diet significantly impacts the composition of her gut bacteria. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains fosters a diverse and healthy microbiome, translating to a more beneficial initial seeding for the baby.

Certain health conditions or chronic inflammation in the mother can also affect the types of bacteria passed on to the baby.

Additionally, antibiotic use during pregnancy or breastfeeding can disrupt the delicate balance of gut bacteria, potentially impacting the baby's developing microbiome.

Breast milk is a crucial source of beneficial bacteria: More than just food for the baby, breast milk, packed with prebiotics, acts as food for the good bacteria in the baby's gut.

It helps establish a healthy and balanced gut microbiome in the baby. Breast milk also contains antibodies that help protect the baby from infections while their immune system matures.

The Good Bug emphasises women’s health for a reason. Our range of prebiotics and probiotics helps them maintain a healthy microbiome, offering the best start for their newborns.

Study insights and key findings

The world of microbiomes is a fascinating area for study. Recent studies have shed light on some intriguing aspects of how the microbiome you get from your mother influences your gut health as a baby.

  • Horizontal gene transfer: When horizontal gene transfer occurs between the mother and the baby, the microbes in the mother's gut share some of their genetic material with the babies’ developing gut bacteria, potentially impacting their health.
  • Continuous microbial colonisation during the first year of life: After the initial seeding of the microbiome at birth, various factors, such as diet introduction, exposure to environmental microbes, and even interaction with pets, can shape the baby's gut microbiome. This ongoing colonisation process highlights the importance of promoting a healthy gut environment throughout infancy.

Microbiome composition and long-term health

Microbiome composition and long-term health


The composition of a baby's gut microbiome, heavily influenced by the mother, plays a significant role in shaping their long-term health. Here's a closer look at some potential connections.

Maternal obesity and childhood health: There is a link between maternal obesity and an increased risk of certain childhood health conditions in offspring, like allergies or inflammatory bowel diseases.

This link is partly explained by the impact of a mother's weight on the composition of gut bacteria passed on to the baby.

As a less diverse microbiome could potentially contribute to developing these conditions, maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria early on might play a protective role.

Microbial impact beyond the gut: The influence of maternal microbes extends beyond just the baby's gut health.

These microbes also play a role in developing the baby's immune system, nervous system, and mental health. Maintaining a healthy and diverse gut microbiome from the start could positively impact a child's overall well-being.

Alternative microbial sources and compensation mechanisms

While most of you get your microbiome from your mother through a vaginal delivery, the building of a microbiome doesn't end there for C-section babies. Here's how other factors contribute and how the body adapts:

Breast milk's compensatory role: Breast milk contains prebiotics, and beneficial bacteria help compensate for the lack of initial exposure through the birth canal for babies born via C-section.

Thus, breast milk promotes a healthier gut environment for C-section babies.

Diversity of microbial sources: Beyond the mother, other sources contribute to shaping a baby's microbiome. Skin-to-skin contact with siblings, fathers, and caregivers can introduce additional microbes.

The baby's environment, including contact with pets and exposure to outdoor spaces, also plays a role in diversifying their gut bacteria.

The transfer of microbes from mother to baby isn't without challenges. Not all maternal microbes survive the harsh, acidic environment of the baby's stomach.

However, some strains are adept at adapting and colonising the baby's gut. This ongoing selection process contributes to the unique composition of each individual's microbiome.

Were you surprised to learn that you get your microbiome from your mother? From the initial seeding during birth to the ongoing influence of breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact, mothers play a vital role in shaping their little ones' gut health.

Understanding this connection empowers moms to make informed choices that can benefit their babies for life.

At The Good Bug, we're passionate about gut health for all ages. Explore our range of prebiotics and probiotics designed to support your gut.

We offer a variety of resources to help moms navigate the exciting world of the microbiome. Visit our website to learn more and find the perfect products to nurture a healthy gut for your entire family.


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