toni harman photo

Toni Harman

Filmmaker, Author, Course Creator and Microbiome Researcher


"Educating Parents About 'Seeding And Feeding' A Baby's Microbiome"


“Microbirth” filmmaker and author Toni Harman explains her journey from award-winning documentary filmmaker to becoming a passionate cheerleader for the infant microbiome.

In this presentation, Toni talks about the importance of educating parents about the critical microscopic events happening during physiological birth and breastfeeding.

Knowledge about this critical science can empower choices before, during and after birth. Armed with this knowledge, expectant parents can take positive steps to nurture and protect their own gut microbiome, and in turn, their child’s microbiome.

Toni will make a case for empowering parents with evidence-based knowledge about the microbiome early in pregnancy, so parents can make empowered choices during pregnancy and beyond.

Toni will argue that all parents have a right to the latest evidence-based information, explained in a way that is easy-to-understand. This can help parents make informed personalised choices that are right for them, their child and for their own personal circumstances. This can help reduce or even eliminate later feelings of "parent guilt". Crucially, educating parents early in pregnancy can potentially alter a child's trajectory of long-term health.

Behavioural Objectives

By the end of this presentation, the audience should be able to:

  • Understand the critical microscopic events happening during physiological birth and breastfeeding.
  • Describe the ‘main seeding event’ for founding the baby’s microbiome during vaginal birth.
  • Describe how the components of breast milk help ‘feed’ the beneficial bacteria in a baby's gut
  • Describe how exclusive breastfeeding can help restore a baby's gut microbiome after being born by C-section
  • Describe how educating parents early in pregnancy about "seeding and feeding" a baby's microbiome can potentially positively impact a child's long-term health.
Register Now


Select Scientific References

Dietert RR. Microbiome First Medicine in Health and Safety. Biomedicines. 2021 Aug 27;9(9):1099. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines9091099. PMID: 34572284; PMCID: PMC8468398.

Hanna Lagström, Samuli Rautava, Helena Ollila, Anne Kaljonen, Olli Turta, Johanna Mäkelä, Chloe Yonemitsu, Julia Gupta, Lars Bode, Associations between human milk oligosaccharides and growth in infancy and early childhood, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 111, Issue 4, April 2020, Pages 769–778,

Liu Y, Qin S, Song Y, Feng Y, Lv N, Xue Y, Liu F, Wang S, Zhu B, Ma J, Yang H. The perturbation of infant gut microbiota caused by cesarean delivery is partially restored by exclusive breastfeeding. Front Microbiol. (2019) Mar 26;10:598. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2019.00598. PMID: 30972048; PMCID: PMC6443713.

Stewart, C.J., Ajami, N.J., O’Brien, J.L. et al. Temporal development of the gut microbiome in early childhood from the TEDDY study. Nature 562, 583–588 (2018).]

Stokholm, J., Blaser, M.J., Thorsen, J. et al. Maturation of the gut microbiome and risk of asthma in childhood. Nat Commun 9, 141 (2018).

Alsharairi, Naser A. “The Infant Gut Microbiota and Risk of Asthma: The Effect of Maternal Nutrition during Pregnancy and Lactation.” Microorganisms vol. 8,8 1119. 25 Jul. 2020, doi:10.3390/microorganisms8081119


A graduate of the London Film School, Toni Harman has produced and directed a number of internationally distributed documentary films including MICROBIRTH, about the origins of the human microbiome, FREEDOM FOR BIRTH, about the struggle for women's rights in childbirth and DOULA!, about the work of birth and postnatal doulas.

Toni’s extensive research for MICROBIRTH led to her co-authoring the books THE MICROBIRTH EFFECT and YOUR BABY’s MICROBIOME.

In 2017, Toni founded MICROBIOME COURSES, an online digital school now with over 36,000 enrolled students. The school offers accredited digital courses for midwives, doulas, lactation consultants and childbirth educators and covers topics on the infant microbiome, epigenetics, group B Strep and the science of breast milk. For more information, go to

Register Now
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram