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Breast Milk May Transfer Good Bacteria from Mother to Baby, Researchers Say

Aug 22, 2013 04:16 AM EDT

A new study has found that good bacteria from the mothers' gut reach the baby via breast milk.

Good bacteria in the gut, aid digestion and are an important part of the baby's diet. Researchers from Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health, ETH-Zurich, Switzerland said that studying the aspect could help improve quality of formula milk.

"We are excited to find out that bacteria can actually travel from the mother's gut to her breast milk. 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," said lead author of the study Christophe Lacroix at the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health, ETH-Zurich, Switzerland.

Researchers found the same strains of bacteria- Bifidobacterium breve and several types of Clostridium bacteria- in breast milk along with maternal/ baby feces. These strains may prevent intestinal disorders in babies.

"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," Professor Lacroix added, according to a press release.

Other studies have shown that the route of birth determines what kind of bacteria the baby receives from its mother; babies born virginally have good bacteria such as Lactobacillus that aid in digestion while C-section babies have bad bacteria such as Staphylococcus and Acinetobacter. The right kind of bacteria during early days of life can help strengthen a baby's immune system.

Experts said that further study is required to understand and confirm whether breast milk transfers the bacteria from mother to the baby.

The  World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that women must exclusively breastfeed their babies for at least six months. A recent study had shown that breastfed babies have faster developing brains. Breastfeeding also benefits mothers as it strengthens the bond between a mother and her child and protects the mother from certain cancers and lowers risk for obesity and heart disease.

The study is published in the journal Environmental Microbiology.

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