Babies born by Caesarean section may have a greater risk of suffering food allergies and diarrhoea during their first 12 months, research suggests.

A team at Munich’s Ludwig-Maximilians University studied 865 babies all fed on breast milk until four months.

They found C-section babies were more likely to have diarrhoea in their first year, and were twice as likely to be allergic to cows’ milk and other food.

The research is published in Archives of Disease in Childhood.

All the babies in the study were born into families with a history of allergies.

They were monitored at one, four, eight and 12 months of age.

Blood samples were also taken after 12 months to check for signs of an allergic response to foods, including eggs, cows’ milk proteins, and soy protein.

And during the first six months, their mothers completed weekly diaries on their children’s health and feeding.

In all, 147 of the 865 babies had been born by C-section, a rate of 17%.

The researchers say previous work has suggested that gut bacteria play a key role in the development of the immune system.

They believe that C-section alters or delays the “normal” bacterial colonisation of the baby’s gut.

It may be that vaginally delivered babies pick up bacteria from the mother’s vagina, intestine and anal area, whereas babies born by C-section merely acquire bacteria from the hospital environment.

More here.