Breastfed Babies Have Fewer Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in Their Guts

Breastfed Babies Have Fewer Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in Their Guts
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Infants who are breastfed for at least 6 months have fewer antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their guts, likely because the sugars in breast milk feed “good bacteria,” which prevents the proliferation of harmful microbes, a new study shows.

It’s an important benefit of breastfeeding, as antibiotic-resistant superbugs are increasing worldwide, fueling fears that modern medicine could be wiped out if new treatments aren’t soon developed.

Researchers from Helsinki University analyzed the genes of 16 mothers and their babies over 8 months. The team sequenced the DNA of a total of 96 samples, including breast milk and feces, from the mothers and their infants.

Some Interesting Findings

Babies that were breastfed for at least 6 months had less antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their guts, compared with babies who were not breastfeed.

Lead study author Katariina Pärnäne said:

“The results suggest that early termination of breastfeeding might have negative health effects for infants … due to an increased resistance potential of the gut microbiota against certain antibiotics.”

The study also showed that mothers who received antibiotics during delivery had babies with a greater number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their guts. The effect was still noticeable 6 months after birth. [2]

Read: Mother’s “Good” Gut Bacteria Carried Through Breast Milk, Benefits Baby

Additionally, researchers found that breast milk contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria that gets passed on to infants via breastfeeding. Yet, breastfeeding still reduced the number of resistant bugs in the bellies of infants, suggesting that breastfeeding helps cancel out any “bad” microbes a mom might pass along. In fact, only some of the resistant bacteria the team found in infants originated from their mothers. The majority came from the environment and other people.

Pärnänen said:

“As a general rule, it could be said that all breastfeeding is for the better.

The positive effect of breastfeeding was identifiable also in infants who were given formula in addition to breast milk. Partial breastfeeding already seemed to reduce the quantity of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Another finding was that nursing should be continued for at least the first six months of a child’s life or even longer.

We have already known that breastfeeding is all in all healthy and good for the baby, but we now discovered that it also reduces the number of bacteria resistant to antibiotics.”

Breastfeeding Provides Numerous Benefits

Natural SocietyBreastfeeding has been shown time and time again to have a slew of benefits for babies, which is why the World Health Organization (WHO) urges mothers to breastfeed for at least 6 months.

Hugely, the practice strengthens infants’ immune systems, boosting the ability to fight infections and disease throughout childhood. In fact, the United Nations (UN) has said that if all mothers globally started solely breastfeeding their babies, it could slash the death rate for children under 5 by 13%. [3]

Despite the mountains of evidence showing the breastfeeding benefits both mother and baby, the United States has been reluctant to advise women to do so. Over the summer, U.S. delegates who gathered in Geneva for the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly refused to approve a resolution encouraging women to breastfeed.

American officials sought to remove language from the resolution calling on governments to “protect, promote, and support breastfeeding,” as well as another passage that called on lawmakers to stop promoting certain food products that health experts have deemed detrimental to young children.

A showdown ensued, threats were lobbed, and in the end Russia stepped in to sponsor the resolution in place of the U.S.

A Health and Human Services spokesperson said at the time:

“The resolution as originally drafted placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children. We recognize not all women are able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons. These women should have the choice and access to alternatives for the health of their babies, and not be stigmatized for the ways in which they are able to do so.”

However, attendees suspect there was a different reason behind the U.S.’s refusal to sign onto the resolution: the baby food industry. Lobbyists from the $70 billion industry were present at the meeting, and the intensity of the Trump administration’s opposition to the resolution shocked public health officials and foreign diplomats who were accustomed to the Obama administration’s support for WHO’s longstanding policy of encouraging breastfeeding.

Why must politics be present everywhere? Sigh.

[1] Daily Mail

[2] Medical Life Sciences News

[3] The New York Times