Breastfeeding better prepares a baby's stomach for the transition to solid food, hence better equipping them for potentially an early life with fewer stomach woes, according to researchers from the UNC School of Medicine and UNC College of Arts and Sciences.
Researchers found that a baby's diet during the first few months of life has a profound influence on the composition, diversity and stability of the gut microbiome and these factors, in turn, influence the baby's ability to transition from milk to solid foods and may have long-term health effects. Senior author Andrea Azcarate-Peril 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 and we think the microbiomes of non-exclusively breastfed babies could contribute to more stomach aches and colic."
First author Researcher Amanda Thompson said, "This study provides yet more support for recommendations by the World Health Organization and others to breastfeed exclusively during the first six months of life and they can see from the data that including formula in an infant's diet does change the gut bacteria even if you are also breastfeeding. Exclusive breastfeeding seems to really smooth out the transition to solid foods. The study advances our understanding of how the gut microbiome develops early in life, which is clearly a really important time period for a person's current and future health."
The study appears in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology.