Breast Fed Babies Start off Right
~ March 2005 No.190 ~
There are just some things that you can’t improve on. For many reasons, feeding a newborn an infant formula is not as good as breastfeeding. As we understand more about the complex population of bacteria that grow in our gastrointestinal tract, this becomes even more obvious
We all come into this world in a sterile state. But even as we emerge from the birth canal, we are exposed to bacteria that will eventually colonize our GI tracts. As the science of microbiology becomes more sophisticated, our knowledge of the complex community of bacteria inside us is expanding. Studies of the bacteria population in breast fed infants is different from bottle fed babies and these differences may have long term health implications.
Breast fed babies generally have larger numbers of bifidobacteria than bottle fed babies growing in their intestines. Up to 90% of the bacteria in the GI tract of breast fed babies can be bifidobacteria. Bifidobacteria are considered to be "good bacteria". Many probiotic foods contain bifidobacteria. It is generally believed that human breast milk contains bifidogenic factors that support and promote the growth of bifidobacteria. As time goes on, and the baby is introduced to solid food, both breast fed and bottle fed babies develop a more complex population of intestinal bacteria.
At the present time, it is difficult to demonstrate a direct benefit to breast fed babies against disease and infection. Mother’s milk contains immunoglobulins that increase resistance to disease, and there is a general feeling that colic is less of a problem in breast fed babies.
Breast feeding babies may also be receiving the benefits of probiotic bacteria consumed by the mother. It has been recently shown that atopic dermatitis is less frequent in babies of mothers who have eaten Lactobaillus rhamnosus GG during pregnancy or lactation. The mechanism by which this happens is not known, but it is certain that something in the mother's milk is the source of the protection.
Infant formulae are improving all the time, but they still do not have all of the health benefits of breast milk
- Beneficial Effects Attributed to Bifidobacteria
- Produce vitamins
- Aid in intestinal function
- Protect against enteric infection
- Contribute to digestion and absorption of food
- Kill or displace pathogenic and other less desirable bacteria
- Stimulate the immune system
Breast Milk: A Source of Bifidobacteria for Infant Gut Development and Maturation?