Breastfeeding Helps Beneficial Bacteria in Baby’s Immune System, Study Shows

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ByIvy Jacobson
Associate Editor, The Knot
Updated
Jan 2017
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Photo: Shutterstock

When you’re breastfeeding , you may never realize that what you’re doing is helping your baby’s gut. No, really! According to a new study from the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark and the University of Copenhagen, breastfeeding encourages the growth of a helpful lactic acid bacteria in baby’s gut flora, aiding the crucial development of his immune system.

“We have become increasingly aware of how crucially important a healthy gut microbial population is for a well-functioning immune system,” says Tine Rask Licht, research manager at the National Food Institute. “Babies are born without bacteria in the gut, and so it is interesting to identify the influence dietary factors have on gut microbiota development in children’s first three years of life.”

Their study followed baby’s intestinal bacterial makeup from 9 to 18 months following breastfeeding and having solid foods, but the bacteria in the stomach evolves until the age of three.

“The results help to support the assumption that the gut microbiota is not — as previously thought — stable from the moment a child is a year old,” says Tine. "According to our study important changes continue to occur right up to the age of three. This probably means that there is a ‘window’ during those early years, in which intestinal bacteria are more susceptible to external factors than what is seen in adults.

He continues, “The results from the study can be used to support initiatives…to help children develop a type of gut microbiota, which is beneficial for the immune system and for the digestive system. This could for example be advice to mothers about breastfeeding or the development of new types of infant formula to promote the establishment of beneficial bacteria in the gut.”

Do you believe this study’s findings?

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