Baby Skin and the Microbiome: Common Myths
Myth #1: The newborn skin microbiome starts out the same in all areas of the body.1
True. The newborn (up to 24hours) skin microbiome most closely reflects the microbiome it was initially exposed to, whether that be the vaginal or skin (due to C-section).
Over time (3 -6 months), the skin microbiome composition becomes site specific and gradually becomes more like the adult skin microbiome as the child ages.
Myth #2: The microbiome that develops on the baby’s skin after birth is independent of mode of delivery.2
False. Results show that vaginally delivered infants acquired bacterial communities resembling their own mother’s vaginal microbiota and C-section infants had bacterial communities similar to those found on the skin surface.
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Myth #3: Delaying baby’s first bath helps establish the skin microbiome.
True (probably). Newborn babies are covered with vernix caseosa, a thick Vaseline-like layer that protects their fragile skin from moisture in utero and contains antibacterial enzymes such as lysozyme. The newborn skin microbiome generally establishes within 4-6 days and coincides with maturation of the newborn skin to retain water and block absorption of chemicals.
The World Health Organization suggests that baby’s first bath should be postponed for 24hours to prevent the life-threatening issue of hypothermia. Only recently has research begun addressing the long-term impacts of bathing infants on the skin microbiome.
A recent article in the American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing3 makes some practical suggestions for safeguarding the establishing microbiome in a healthy, full-term infant.
Myth #4: Skin to skin contact from non-family members is important in developing the baby’s skin microbiome.4
False (at least in the first 24hours). Advice suggests immediate skin-to-skin contact with the mother and limiting handling of the newborn by non-family members helps establish the baby’s first microbiome.
Myth #5: Baby’s gut microbiome comes partly from the mother’s skin microflora.5
True. In breast fed babies – approximately 10% of the gut microflora comes from their mothers’ breast skin.
Myth #6: Breast milk is sterile.6
False. Breast milk contains a rich mixture of microflora that help establish the baby’s gut microbiome.