After discussing the effects of c-section on the microbiome that an infant receives from its mother, I wondered in what other ways the mother affects the infants microbiome. To investigate this, I looked at whether or not breast milk had any effect on the baby’s microbiome. As it turns out, there are bacteria in breast milk that are transferred from the mother to the baby. This is a new and interesting discovery, as it was previously thought that breast milk was sterile. So where does this bacteria come from? Part of it comes from the baby, as there is some flow-back from the babies mouth as it drinks from the nipple. However it is suggested that the rest of this bacteria is transferred by immune cells, specifically dendritic cells, from the gut to the breast. While there is still more research to be done, this hypothesis of the bacteria from the gut being transferred to the breast milk seems to be the most promising. It appears that the bacteria that babies receive from their mother’s breast milk replace the gut bacteria they received during the birthing process.
I think that this article raises a lot of interesting questions about the importance of breast milk in a baby’s development from the perspective of building their microbiomes. The first thing that I am curious about is how important this bacteria from the breast milk is to the development of the baby. If it is super important, how do we ensure that mothers who are able are breast feeding their babies? Also, what happens if the mother is unable to breast feed their baby, or if the mother is prescribed antibiotics while breast feeding? Is there a way to supplement babies whose mothers are unable to breast feed them? Also, how would antibiotics prescribed to the baby effect their ability to acquire a microbiome from their mother? The discovery that breast milk contains bacteria raises many questions about how this affects the baby that I believe could spur much future research.
Gould, S.E. “The bacteria in breast milk.” Lab Rat. Scientific American, 8 December 2013. Web. 27 April 2014.