If I had to do a top ten list of reasons to have a baby at home, dirty hospitals would be near the top of my list. At my midwifery study group today, a mom from England mentioned that the rise in home-birth is directly related to the desire to avoid the super-bugs that have been bred in hospitals. When I read this article, I felt a bit germ-phobic for a few months afterwards and made sure my birth bag had plenty of hand-sanitizer.
And while we are on the subject of germs, whose germs would you like your baby to have anyway? Hospital super-bugs or your germs? There has been some interesting research on gut flora. "Term infants who were born vaginally at home and were breastfed exclusively seemed to have the most "beneficial" gut microbiota (highest numbers of bifidobacteria and lowest numbers of C difficile and E coli)."
At birth, a baby is germ-free. An hour later there are millions of germs covering her mucous membranes. To be born is to enter the world of microbes. The question is - which germs will be the first to colonize the baby's body? Bacteriologists know that the winners of the race will be the rulers of the territory. The germ environment of the mother is already familiar and friendly from the perspective of the newborn because mother and baby share the same antibodies (IgG). In other words, from a bacteriological point of view, the newborn human baby urgently needs to be in contact with only one person - her mother. If we add that early consumption of colostrum will help establish an ideal gut flora, there is no doubt that, from a bacteriological point of view, the hour following birth is a critical period with life long consequences. Our gut flora can be presented as an aspect of our personality that cannot be easily modified later on in life.
So it would seem that putting baby skin-to-skin immediately after the birth isn't just about bonding, it is about colonizing baby with your friendlier bacteria. A good reason to be insistent about baby going skin to skin. And what about that bath? No thanks! The vernix on baby's skin helps protect him her from those super-bugs. Here is one article that should be a must-read for hospital staff. And I repeat, "Studies confirm that maintaining an intact epidermal barrier by
minimizing exposure to soap and by not removing vernix caseosa are
simple measures to improve skin barrier function." Tell your nurse you will bathe baby when you get home!