RALEIGH, N.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Breast milk is often called “liquid gold” for its health and nutritional benefits to infants. And now researchers are finding it has an especially big impact on a baby’s gut microbiome. This is what researchers found when they compared exclusively breast fed babies to those who were fed a combination of breast milk and formula
Jennifer Foster strongly believes this is one of the best things she can do for both her one-month-old and her two-year-old.
“It’s the most natural thing you can do for your child. It’s the healthiest choice you can make for the child and for the mom.” Foster told Ivanhoe.
A study by Amanda Thompson, a researcher at UNC Chapel Hill, backs that up with scientific evidence.
“We collected infant diapers every day and every week on 32 infants and followed them over 15 months, so lots and lots of diapers.” Thompson explained.
The stool samples showed that babies who were exclusively breast fed had fewer stomach aches and colic when they transitioned to solid foods than babies who were fed breast milk and formula.
Thompson continued, “We see less change in what’s going on in their guts. So it seemed like exclusive breastfeeding is really setting them up to be ready to eat these solid foods.”
The difference is seen in the trillions of microbes that live in the baby’s digestive tract. The microbiomes of exclusively breastfed babies tended to be less diverse and were dominated by a type of bacteria considered beneficial for digestion. The study suggests that the makeup of the microbiome can potentially influence long-term health
“Diversity of gut bacteria tends to be linked to better health outcomes in adults.” Thompson said.
For Foster, the benefits of breastfeeding are as much emotional as physical.
“There’s just that special bond that you have with your little one and it’s something you can provide that nobody else can.” Foster stated.
A study in Nature Medicine found that the health of an infant’s gut microbiomes may also determine whether they will develop allergies and asthma as a toddler. And another study found that having dogs may help because they expose children to allergens and possibly strengthen their microbiomes.
Contributors to this news report include: Jessica Sanchez, Field Producer; Brent Sucher, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor; Gabriella Battistiol, News Assistant.