Your Baby’s Microbiome: The Critical Role of Vaginal Birth and Breastfeeding for Lifelong Health summarizes the latest scientific research on the benefits of vaginal birth and breastfeeding to an infant’s microbiome.

Written for childbirth educators, doulas, midwives, lactation consultants, and interested parents, Your Baby’s Microbiome is packed full of detailed information on the microbial and epigenetic differences between vaginal and c-section births. For the parent debating between a scheduled c-section or vaginal birth – this book is a must read. Your Baby’s Microbiome provides all readers with the latest science – straight from the researchers – on how vaginal birth and breastfeeding are thought to influence gut microbiome establishment.


Sticks to the Data

I greatly appreciated the restraint of the authors in discussing areas like water-birthing and in-caul births, where the research has not been done. They make it extremely clear that the research hasn’t been done, but then do provide thoughtful ideas from the data currently available. I find this extremely important for such a rapidly developing science. Perhaps the reason Your Baby’s Microbiome doesn’t over-reach is because the book was written from interviews with the scientists done for the documentary Microbirth. “The movie had to have one central message and we had to paint that idea with a broad brushstroke”, said Toni. But that left the majority of the interviews with scientists out of the film. Toni and Alex wanted that information to get out to the public as well and felt like a book would best summarize the current scientific knowledge to better inform doulas, midwives, and lactation consultants about microbiome-friendly practices.

The film and book emerged out of their feeling of helplessness during their daughter’s birth via C-section and their unsupported attempts at initial breastfeeding. Despite their experiences and the science, they consistently acknowledge that C-sections and formula feeding are necessary and important in some instances. Your Baby’s Microbiome is NOT judgemental. Your Baby’s Microbiome simply aims to inform parents and childbirth practitioners to start a conversation. From interviews with scientists, Toni and Alex became convinced that babies receive numerous benefits from vaginal birth and breastfeeding. They saw that more women need to be encouraged and supported in these endeavors instead of discouraged. Toni feels that largely doulas and midwives carry this work on now, supporting a variety of women around the world. To this end, the authors hope their films and this book will help inform and empower women to make birth choices that are healthy for them and their families.

Toni Harman and Alex Wakeford, authors of new book Your Baby’s Microbiome and directors of documentaries, “Doula”, “Freedom to Birth”, and “Microbirth”

What I liked about Your Baby’s Microbiome

  • QR codes to short clips from interviews with the scientists
  • The focus on vaginal birth in terms of the “main seeding” event. The idea that healthy infants may receive microbes from the placenta is still research under scrutiny and not well replicated. While the book gives the appropriate nod to the placental work, the author’s focus on vaginal birth and breastfeeding as the primary ways that infants receive their microbiome.
  • It’s detailed and is written by 2 filmmakers from the interviews they did with 12 of the leading scientists in the field. The analogies are good. It is written by non-scientists for non-scientists. I like the style. Very down-to-earth, but not like a chatty-girlfriend.
  • Nice section on the role of the microbiome on training an infant’s immune system and potential implications of epigenetic changes during vaginal birth.
  • Gives important details about c-sections and formula feeding, but in an informative, non-judgmental way. The authors’ only daughter was born via c-section. Toni also initially struggled with breastfeeding, so their daughter first received formula. At the time they didn’t know the pros and cons and didn’t feel fully supported. Now Toni and Alex are dedicated to educating women, so other parents can make informed decisions for their own children.
  • Good, clear, bulleted summaries at the end of each chapter.
  • A chapter on solutions for supporting childbirth that is beneficial to the microbial side of ourselves.

What didn’t like

Overall, I feel like “Your Baby’s Microbiome (U.S.)” or the U.K. release “The Microbiome Effect is the best source out there right now for accurate information on the importance of vaginal birth and breastfeeding. Whether you are a parent, grandparent, or child birth professional, it’s an essential read. It is being released in the U.S. by Chelsea Green books on February 20, 2017. Get your copy through your independent bookstore or support Mostly Microbes at no cost to you, through buying at Amazon. To support the book’s U.S. release, Toni and Alex are also releasing free videos from their One World Birth Childbirth Summit from February 20-28th, 2017. See below for more details. For another review I did of the book for Lamaze’s Blog Science and Sensibility.

To be entered in a give-away for a free copy, subscribe to the Mostly Microbes email list  or tag me when you share on social media. Drawing Feb. 28th.


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The publishers provided a copy of this book for review to Mostly Microbes with the understanding that the review would be an unbiased critique. Any links within the post to purchase the books are Amazon Affiliate links. Whatever you purchase at Amazon within 24 hours of clicking on the affiliate link will provide a small commission (less than sales tax) AT NO COST TO YOU to support the costs of maintaining this blog. 
This post was edited 2/20/17 to clarify that the book was written from interviews with scientists and better reflect the journey and intentions of the book’s authors.

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