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  • Writer's pictureJodi Selander

Breastmilk, probiotics, and your baby’s gut

Babies’ guts were once thought to be sterile at birth, with no beneficial bacteria present. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, human breastmilk has over 700 beneficial microbes that aid in a baby’s immune support and brain development.

The study suggests that the hormones present during labor may have an impact on the microbial diversity of breastmilk. Mothers having vaginal births and those with births via cesarean AFTER laboring, have similar microbial diversity in their breastmilk. However, mothers with babies born via scheduled cesarean show less microbial diversity than the other two groups. It is also known that babies exposed to the flora of a mother’s vagina also have more beneficial bacteria their guts, jump starting a healthy immune response.

Breastmilk also protects a baby’s gut and intestines from harmful bacteria:

“Breast milk is also loaded with over 130 human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) which are a kind of resistant starch (RS), meaning that they are not broken down by the enzymes in the esophagus, stomach or small intestine. Instead, they remain intact until they reach the large intestine, where they feed the good bacteria that live in the colon. HMOs have been shown to have prebiotic effects, promoting the growth of Bifidobacterium bifidum, as well as other beneficial microbes. (2) Some interesting news is that goat’s milk is loaded with HMO-like oligosaccharides, while cow’s milk only has trace amounts. What is also cool about HMOs is that bad, virulent and pathogenic bacteria actually adhere to the HMOs rather than the wall of the infant’s intestines. This allows the infant time to ramp-up their quantity of diverse immune and brain-boosting microbes.” (Elephant Journal)

Research on HMOs continues, and their potential benefits extend beyond just the digestive system. Some studies suggest that HMOs may also play a role in supporting brain development and function. Overall, the complex interplay between HMOs, the microbiome, and the immune system underscores the importance of breastfeeding and the unique benefits it provides to infants.

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