Breastfeeding can prepare baby for solid food
Babies who are breastfed in the first few months of life have a better transition from milk to solid foods than those who aren’t breastfed, subsequently bringing long-term health effects, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine set out to investigate the relationship between breast milk and the human stomach.
For their study, they recruited nine babies and collected stool samples and information about their diet and health from the age of two weeks to 14 months.
Using genomic sequencing techniques on the stool samples, the researchers were able to detect the types and functions of the bacteria in each baby’s gut microbiomes (found in the stomach).
Significant differences were found between the microbiomes of babies that were exclusively breastfed during the first few months of life, compared to those who were fed both formula and breast milk.
Interestingly, the analysis of the stool samples revealed that exclusively breastfed babies who had been introduced to solid foods had around 20 bacterial enzymes, while those who were fed both formula and breast milk and then introduced to solid foods had around 230 enzymes.
This suggests that breast milk plays an important role in a baby’s ability to digest solid foods in the short-term, which could lead to long-term health benefits, such as a lower risk of obesity, irritable bowel syndrome and gastrointestinal problems.
Andrea Azcarate-Peril, lead researcher of the study, said: ‘We found that babies who are fed only breast milk have microbial communities that seem more ready for the introduction of solid foods.
‘The transition to solids is much more dramatic for the microbiomes of babies that are not exclusively breastfed. We think the microbiomes of non-exclusively breastfed babies could contribute to more stomach aches and colic.’