The new birthing trend that’s got everyone talking


In a new birthing trend, mothers across Australia are taking swabs of fluid from their vagina and rubbing it in the mouths and over the bodies of their newborn babies. And they just might have good reason to do so.


Dr Rachel Reed from the University of the Sunshine Coast, and independent midwife, explains: “There is a difference between the microbiome of a baby born vaginally compared to a baby born by C-section. During a vaginal birth the baby is colonised by maternal vaginal and faecal bacteria. A baby born by C-section is colonised by the bacteria in the hospital environment and maternal skin.

“These differences in the microbiome ‘seeding’ may be the reason for the long-term increased risk of particular diseases for babies born by C-section.”

As studies continue to emerge linking the gut bacteria of a baby born via caesarean to increased metabolic and immune diseases, compared to those babies born vaginally, mothers have begun taking matters into their own hands.

The trend is called ‘seeding’ and the intention is to change the microbiome of a baby so that it is similar to that of a child born vaginally, therefore reducing risk of disease.

Put simply, a baby born vaginally will be exposed to the kind of bacteria from his mother that could help set up his immune system, but a baby born by caesarean will bypass these important bacteria. So if a woman swabs the newborn with her vaginal fluids after birth, the theory is that the baby will receive the same bacteria that it would have been exposed to in the birth canal.

The research behind the trend


The preliminary findings that show the microbes are at least being partially restored are promising.

But is there a risk of introducing harmful bacteria to your baby during this practice? Dr Dominguez-Bello says the risks of introducing the ‘wrong’ kind of bacteria are equivalent to the risks in a normal vaginal birth.

The ‘seeding’ technique

So how do you actually go about ‘seeding’ a newborn? Dr Reed says the studies being carried out are using this protocol:

  • Take a piece of gauze soaked in sterile normal saline.
  • Fold it up like a tampon with lots of surface area and insert into the mother’s vagina
  • Leave for one hour, remove just prior to surgery and keep in a sterile container
  • Immediately after birth apply the swab to the baby’s mouth, face, then the rest of the body

Dr Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, Associate Professor in Medicine at New York University is leading a study comparing the microbiome of C-section babies and vaginally delivered babies in their first year of life. Although the findings are not officially published, Dr Dominguez-Bello says the simple technique has shown a positive influence on the diversity of the newborn’s microbiome, but it is still not equivalent to vaginal birth.

“That’s logical because during labour, the baby is rubbing against the mucosa of the birth canal for a long time and bacteria start growing even before the baby is out,” Dr Dominguez-Bello told a UK publication recently. “Also, C-sections involve antibiotics, and we don’t know what the effect is of that gram of penicillin.”

“I seeded my daughter”

An Australian mum recently talked to body+soul about why she seeded her newborn baby.

Leah Lynham performed seeding after the birth of her second daughter, Rosie, the day after she was born. Read about why she did it and the process she used here.

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