Photo of a bab y breastfeeding
Beneficial bacteria from a mother's gut can transfer to her baby via her breastmilk [Alemarmer - Wikimedia commons]

Babies get mum’s beneficial gut bacteria via breastmilk

22 August, 2013

Natural Health News — Scientists have discovered what most mums already know – that important ‘good’ bacteria arrive in babies’ digestive systems from their mother’s gut via breast milk.

The study, just published in the journal Environmental Microbiology, was led by Professor Christophe Lacroix at the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health, ETH-Zurich, Switzerland.

Professor Lacroix said: “We are excited to find out that bacteria can actually travel from the mother’s gut to her breast milk.

“A healthy community of bacteria in the gut of both mother and baby is really important for baby’s gut health and immune system development.”

The Zurich team found the same strains of Bifidobacterium breve and several types of Clostridium bacteria, which are important for colonic health, in breast milk, and maternal and/or neonatal faeces. Strains found in breast milk may be involved in establishing a critical nutritional balance in the baby’s gut and may be important to prevent intestinal disorders.

Professor Lacroix continued “We’re not sure of the route the bacteria take from gut to breast milk but, we have used culture, isolation, sequencing and fingerprinting methods to confirm that they are definitely the same strains.”

Future research will hopefully complete the picture of how bacteria are transferred from mother to neonate.

While some have heralded the study as a blueprint for producing better quality infant formula, the science of what’s in breastmilk tends to outpace the development of such products. By the time most manufacturers have put new improved products out – some new important aspect of breastmilk has been revealed.

The old adage, it seems, remains true, breast really is best.