New Study Shows Benefits of Long Term Breastfeeding

AUTHORS:

BREASTMILK ADJUSTS FOR OPTIMUM GUT BACTERIA OVER TIME

 

(If you have missed the national dialogue about the TIME magazine cover featuring a mother nursing a three year-old, read Attachment Parenting International’s response here.) 


ScienceDaily (May 14, 2012) — A new University of Illinois study shows that human milk oligosaccharides, or HMO, produce short-chain fatty acids that feed a beneficial microbial population in the infant gut. Not only that, the bacterial composition adjusts as the baby grows older and its needs change.

Even though HMO are a major component of human milk, present in higher concentration than protein, many of their actions in the infant are not well understood. Furthermore, they’re virtually absent from infant formula. The scientists wanted to find out what formula-fed babies were missing.

“We refer to HMO as the fiber of human milk because we don’t have the enzymes to break down these compounds. They pass into the large intestine where the bacteria digest them.

“We’re curious about the role they play in the development of the breast-fed infant’s gut bacteria because the bacteria found in the guts of formula-fed infants is different,” said Sharon Donovan, the U of I’s Melissa M. Noel Endowed Professor in Nutrition and Health.

With this study, Donovan is gaining insight into the mystery. For the first time, scientists have shown that a complex mixture of HMO and a single HMO component produce patterns of short-chain fatty acids that change as the infant gets older.

A healthy microbiome has both short- and long-term effects on an infant’s health. In the short term, beneficial bacteria protect the infant from infection by harmful bacteria. In the long term, beneficial bacteria strengthen the immune system so that it can fend off chronic health problems like food allergies and asthma, she said.

In the study, breast milk was obtained from mothers of preterm infants at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, and the HMO were isolated and analyzed. The scientists tested bacteria from 9- and 17-day-old sow-reared and formula-fed piglets. Because piglets grow so rapidly, these ages reflect approximately three- and six-month-old human infants.

The colon bacteria were added to test tubes containing HMO and two prebiotics commonly used in infant formulas. These mixtures were allowed to ferment and then sampled to see how the bacterial population was changing over time and what products were being produced by the bacteria.

“When the HMOs were introduced, the bacteria produced short-chain fatty acids, at some cases at higher levels than other prebiotics now used in infant formula. The short-chain fatty acids can be used as a fuel source for beneficial bacteria and also affect gastrointestinal development and pH in the gut, which reduces the number of disease-causing pathogens,” she said.

Further, different HMOs produced different patterns of short-chain fatty acids, and the composition of bacteria in the gut changed over time. “It was distinctly different at 9 vs. 17 days, making it likely that the functions of HMO change as the human infant gets older,” she said.

According to Donovan, HMO are critically important in understanding how breastfeeding protects babies.

“Several companies are now able to synthesize HMO, and in the future, we may be able to use them to improve infant formula. There’s evidence that these compounds can bind to receptors on immune cells and, to our knowledge, no current prebiotic ingredient can do that,” she said.

Funding was provided by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

 

Source: The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. The original article was written by Phyllis Picklesimer.

Citation:  M. Li, L. L. Bauer, X. Chen, M. Wang, T. B. Kuhlenschmidt, M. S. Kuhlenschmidt, G. C. Fahey, S. M. Donovan.Microbial Composition and In Vitro Fermentation Patterns of Human Milk Oligosaccharides and Prebiotics Differ between Formula-Fed and Sow-Reared PigletsJournal of Nutrition, 2012; 142 (4): 681 DOI: 10.3945/jn.111.154427

Breastfeeding Resources imageBreastfeeding Resources

Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine is a worldwide organization of physicians dedicated to the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding and human lactation. Its mission is to unite into one association members of the various medical specialties with this common purpose.

Eats on Feets.  Community Breastmilk Sharing. Eats On Feets facilitates a world-wide network of parents and professionals who have made the informed choice to share or support the sharing of breastmilk.

Human Milk Banking Association of North AmericaHuman milk is a precious resource. Even with milk banks, the availability of donor milk is very limited. Sometimes, a mother chooses not to breastfeed, or for whatever reason is unable to breastfeed. Some babies MUST receive human milk in order to survive. In these cases, doctors will prescribe human milk for the child. In a perfect world, all babies would receive breastmilk, either from their mother or from a donor, and the artificial milk industry would be very limited. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if “formula” were only available by prescription?

Human Milk 4 Human Babies, HM4HB.  HM4HB is a global milksharing network, a virtual village, comprising thousands of people from over fifty countries. We are mothers, fathers, adoptive families, grandparents, childbirth and breastfeeding professionals, volunteers, supporters, donors, and recipients that have come together to support the simple idea that all babies and children have the right to receive human milk. We use social media as a platform for local families to make real-life connections and come together as sustainable milksharing communities where women graciously share their breastmilk. HM4HB is built on the principle of informed choice: we trust, honour, and value the autonomy of families and we assert they are capable of weighing the benefits and risks of milksharing in order to make choices that are best for them.

La Leche League. Our Mission is to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother.

Categories: Attachment Parenting / Bonding,Breastfeeding,Conscious Parenting

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