Breastfeeding and breast milk
Breast milk is a significant source of exposure to new bacteria. Considering bacteria is often introduced via the entry to the GIT (the mouth), the choice of nutrients/food for babies is a major determinant of the composition of their microbiome. As a mother, you have the opportunity to maintain a diverse and healthy microbiome, which will then positively influence the microbiota composition in breastmilk.
Babies who are breastfed often have a more complex Bifidobacterium (of the Phyla Actinobacteria) – a genus (along with Lactobacillus) that makes up a large majority of ingredients that are used in common to encourage re-colonisation of healthy bacteria. These are known to be beneficial bacteria to possess. As probiotics aren’t commonly absorbed into circulation, there is a low chance of their effects reaching the breastmilk if taken while breastfeeding. Breastmilk is already extremely rich in pre- and probiotics to help your baby’s microbiome develop. Formula-fed infants were found to have higher rates of E coli, C difficile, and Bacteroides than breast-fed infants. These groups can be responsible for ‘taking up space’ in the microbiome, preventing other bacteria from forming to create a more diverse microbiome.
First 1000 days
The first 1000 days, like many physiological developments, is vital to develop the gut microbiota. By the age of 2-3 years old (~1000 days from conception), a child’s microbiome has developed to a point that will be similar to their microbiome for the rest of their life! The microbiome influences many functions that are related to digestion, metabolism and other factors like the development of the immune system. This is why it is crucial to provide children with a varied and nutrient rich diet as early as possible – from breastfeeding through to introduction of solids.
There have been many studies that link how the early postnatal environment determines susceptibility to chronic diseases and immune disorders. If a healthy and diverse microbiome is developed in the first 3 years of life, it is likely to have major benefits to that child when they’re an adult. The mysteries of the microbiome are being continuously investigated, and in the scheme of things, it is still a very new topic in the science world. For now, we know that breastfeeding, as well as a diverse and healthy diet in both the mother and the child (as solids are introduced around 6 months of age) is the best way to nourish a healthy microbiome. If you’d like to learn more or gain support in nutrition and breastfeeding, then contact Growth Spectrum for a FREE 20 min kickstarter call!
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- More than just a gut instinct-the potential interplay between a baby’s nutrition, its gut microbiome, and the epigenome https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpregu.00551.2012
- Association Between Breast Milk Bacterial Communities and Establishment and Development of the Infant Gut Microbiome https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/2625334
- Factors Influencing the Composition of the Intestinal Microbiota in Early Infancy https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/118/2/511?ijkey=2cc79961ce6741c3d6df2caffac17d48a7ea2726&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha
- Bifidobacteria and Their Role as Members of the Human Gut Microbiota https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4908950/
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- What is the Healthy Gut Microbiota Composition? A Changing Ecosystem across Age, Environment, Diet, and Diseases (2019) https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2607/7/1/14/htm#B13-microorganisms-07-00014
- Impact of intrapartum and postnatal antibiotics on the gut microbiome and emergence of antimicrobial resistance in infants https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6650395/
- Group B Strep and Pregnancy https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/pregnancy/group-b-strep-and-pregnancy
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- Maternal Fecal Microbiota Transplantation in Cesarean-Born Infants Rapidly Restores Normal Gut Microbial Development: A Proof-of-Concept Study https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(20)31089-8?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0092867420310898%3Fshowall%3Dtrue