An open letter to Beyoncé wishing her and her family well as the twins meet their microbial partners for life.
As you wait and prepare for the twins’ birth please don’t forget the invisible microbes that will protect, feed, and teach your babies for the rest of their lives. Yep, I’m talking about “germs” or more politically correctly – “microbes”. Babies are “microbe magnets”. Those first microbes that baby encounters become their microbes for life. They are stuck together – life partners in sickness and in health.
What’s cool is that these microbes are security guards keeping away diseases, chefs chopping up food to feed baby, and soothing Jedi masters who teach baby’s immune system what to kill and what to ignore. In my grandmother’s day, people in developed countries died from communicable diseases – polio, mumps, measles, yellow fever. Diseases that are spread from person to person by sneezing, coughing, or spread by insects, like mosquitos. Today people die from non-communicable diseases – diabetes, allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases, and more. Our diseases today aren’t due to specific microbial pathogens. Vaccines, handwashing, clean water, sewers, and antibiotics keep these easy-to-spread microbial diseases at low numbers. Instead, today’s diseases are because we have been denied our “microbial birthright”. Our microbes are taken from us, either due to overuse of antibiotics, antibacterial compounds, over washing, and scheduled c-sections. We’ve cleaned away our microbial life partners that we need. Sounds weird – eh? Truth.
You gave your first daughter, Blue Ivy, her full microbial birthright during her birth and breastfeeding. I loved your description of Blue Ivy’s birth as seeing her “pushing open a heavy door”. Your microbes were there helping her open that door. As soon as a mom’s waters break, baby gets exposed to mom’s vaginal microbes. As baby makes that amazing journey down the birth canal, microbes fill her nose, mouth, and skin. These microbes will move into your sweet baby’s gut, nose, and other places where they find their new homes. During Blue Ivy’s birth she met not only you and Jay-Z, but also your microbes. With breastfeeding, you continued to nurture her new microbial partners.
As Blue Ivy snuggled and nuzzled against your skin and drank her first drops of breast milk, the microbes you gave her during birth began making themselves a forever home in her gut. Human breast milk is unlike any other mammal’s milk. Hundreds of special sugars in breast milk feed only the microbes mom passes to baby during birth. Pathogenic bacteria can’t eat these special breast milk sugars – they just don’t have the right tools to break the sugars up. Those first mom-inherited bacteria started feeding and teaching Blue Ivy’s gut the difference between friends and enemies. Without those special microbial teachers, Blue Ivy’s body wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between friends and enemies. Instead, her body would overreact and kill everything, including helpful bacteria and even her own gut cells! Such overreacting immune systems may lead to autoimmune diseases and digestive system problems. Good microbial teachers early in life seem to set the stage for long-term human health, as I hope Blue Ivy has and continues to have.
The BeyHive and the rest of the world are anxiously awaiting the birth of your twins. I love that you are having them at home. That’s another birth microbe letter for another day. If you’re anything like I was in those last few weeks, you’re ready for them to get here too. Both my girls were over 10 days past their “due date”. They took their own, sweet time. When they, my body, and the microbes were ready, the show was on. Waters broke and babies started their journeys. Our girls and their microbes have been good partners ever since, as I hope Blue Ivy’s have been to her. From one mom to another, best of luck as you introduce your twins to the world that we can and cannot see. At their birth, I hope that the twins meet helpful microbial life partners that will protect, feed, and teach them well throughout their lives.
Kind regards to you and your microbes,
Other posts that might be of interest:
Share the Microbial Love
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