THURSDAY, Aug. 22, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Breast milk delivers beneficial bacteria from a mother's gut to her baby's digestive system, according to a new study.
Swiss researchers found the same strains of several types of beneficial bacteria in breast milk and in mothers' and babies' feces. Strains found in breast milk may help establish a critical nutritional balance in the baby's gut and may be important to prevent intestinal disorders, according to the authors of the study in the Aug. 22 issue of the journal Environmental Microbiology.
"We are excited to find out that bacteria can actually travel from the mother's gut to her breast milk," Christophe Lacroix, of the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health in Zurich, said in a journal news release. "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," he explained.
"We're not sure of the route the bacteria take from gut to breast milk but, we have used culture, isolation, sequencing and fingerprinting methods to confirm that they are definitely the same strains," Lacroix added.
Further research is needed to determine how beneficial bacteria are transferred through breast milk from mother to infant. Having a greater understanding of how babies acquire a population of beneficial bacteria in their digestive system may lead to the development of formula milk that is more like breast milk, the researchers said.
The U.S. Office on Women's Health has more about breast-feeding.