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Breast Milk Probiotics

According to the researchers behind this new study, the same strains of Bifidobacterium breve and various strains of Clostridium--which are important for colonic health--where found in the breast milk, and maternal and/or neonatal faeces of several mothers and their newborns. These strains found in breast milk, say the researchers, may be involved in establishing a critical bacterial balance in the child's gut and may be important to prevent intestinal disorders.

“We are excited to find out that bacteria can actually travel from the mother’s gut to her breast milk,” said the lead researcher. “A healthy community of bacteria in the gut of both mother and baby is really important for baby’s gut health and immune system development.”

However, the researchers were not sure how the bacteria, which were "obligate anaerobes" (organisms that can only live in the absence of oxygen) were able to travel to the breast milk. My initial thought was that it must travel externally from the rectum/anal opening via physical contact (for example, hands), gets transported and applied to many other areas of the body, including breasts. In this scenario, the bacteria are not found in breast milk, but on the breast/nipple, which gets transferred to the milk as it come out. The question with this would be how would the bacteria survive in the presence of oxygen? The answer could be that these bacteria don't actually die in the presence of oxygen, but merely go into a dormant/hibernating state. I would say more research need to be done.

What this research shows, however, is the importance of breastfeeding. These bacterial strains are critical to the healthy development of the child, and if breast milk is a primary source of them, it would seem just doing what Nature intended is the right path to take.

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Source: Vertical mother–neonate transfer of maternal gut bacteria via breastfeeding

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