At Mother Nutrient, we talk a lot about the importance of supporting babies’ health through a thriving gut microbiome. A diverse and balanced gut microbiota is made up of thousands of bacteria that play a role in establishing critical foundations for your baby’s health.
From the very first days of life, the gut microbiome impacts your baby’s gut health and the development of their immune system [1,2]. Even the bacteria that they encounter during vaginal birth contributes to their microbiome. Studies have demonstrated that the presence of harmful bacteria in these critical stages of development can affect their immune systems and lead to acute and long-term health risks, including immune abnormalities and chronic inflammation [3,4,5,6].
A baby’s gut microbiome can also be negatively affected by cesarean birth, antibiotic use, hospitalization, exposure to toxins, and formula feeding .
Well, with the help of a fascinating new study, we now have a better idea. Stanford University, the University of Nebraska, and Evolve BioSystems assessed the status of infant gut microbiomes in U.S. babies. They found that the majority of babies have an imbalance between beneficial and harmful bacteria in their gut and that most babies lack key gut bacteria needed to support their health and development .
The bacterial compositions of 227 infants under 6 months of age across 5 states were determined by analyzing their fecal samples. They determined bacteria types and amounts, and the presence of antibiotic resistant genes. The bacterial ability to fully utilize breast milk was also assessed since it is an indication of the presence of beneficial bacteria.
One particular strain, Bifidobacterium longum subsp. Infantis (B. infantis), is especially known for its beneficial impact on infant gut health and immune system development. It helps to protect against gut pathogens linked to common newborn conditions like colic and diaper rash. B. Infantis is also the most efficient strain at metabolizing carbohydrates in breast milk called human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) into usable nutrients . This means they can help maximize the nutrients babies get from breastmilk.
“This study provides the clearest picture to date of just how widespread this issue is and highlights the need to address B. infantis deficiency in the infant gut right from the start.”
Another important discovery was the prevalence of potentially harmful bacteria. Many of these, which included Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Streptococcus, and Staphylococcus, carry genes related to antibiotic resistance. The finding indicates that many babies have an unbalanced gut microbiome, with too much harmful bacteria and not enough beneficial bacteria that help with utilizing nutrients from breast milk.
The researchers concluded:
“The infant gut microbiome in the United States is clearly dysfunctional, and we believe this is a critical factor underpinning many of the infant and childhood ailments we see today across the country.”
The importance of creating and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is why we have a whole line of probiotics for you and your baby.