From the ancient time, whenever a woman becomes pregnant, her health care providers and doctor’s emphasize on breastfeeding to the newborns. There is a great motive behind, called “hygiene hypothesis theory” and this theory states that the microorganisms found in mother’s milk strength the baby’s immune system. However, some mother thinks breastfeeding may decrease their beauty or their physical structure will be hampered, sorry to say, it’s just a myth! Once a baby leaves the hygienic environment of the hospital, he gets exposed to all kinds of microorganisms (both bad and good). However, it was believed by older for a long time, this is the first time researchers have proven it.
New mothers may ask, how long they should continue breastfeeding. According to the , breastfeeding has significant benefits for both mothers and infants. The World Health Organization (WHO), Save the children and UNICEF recommend, newborns be exclusively breastfed in their first six months of life. Besides, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that infants should continue breastfeeding for at least one year or as long as is mutually desired by the mother and baby, after the initial six months.
Why breastfeed your baby? The researchers have understood that breast milk protects infants from insufficient nutrition and mothers are encouraged to breastfeed. Besides, imperative nutritional benefits, breast milk can also defend from contracting a number of diseases later in life, such as heart disease, juvenile diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis below age 15.
Recently, a team of researchers at the , Michigan has found that the effect of breast milk on a baby’s gut microbome may be what averts certain diseases from developing in infants by boosting their immune system for example, developing the risk of getting allergies later in life. If you’re not familiar with the term “the gut microbiome”, it refers to the “ecological community of commensal, symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms” residing in the gut, although bacteria also exist in the skin and other exposed surfaces. Interestingly, new study has confirmed that our microbiomes can exert a very important effect on our health and microbes have been implicated in depression, anxiety, autism and shaping the immune system.
For the research purpose, the researchers conducted six different independent studies which rated the influence of breastfeeding on the microbiome of babies’ guts and its contribution to health later. The investigators used data from Henry Ford’s long-term Wayne County Health, Environment, Allergy and Asthma Longitudinal Study (WHEALS) which analyzed stool samples from newborns, taken in the first month of birth and then again at six months. Finally, the study by the Henry Ford Hospital physicians advised that a sterile environment may not be the best option for babies. Lead researcher Christine Cole Johnson said in a hospital news release, “Exposure to these microorganisms or bacteria, in the first few months after birth actually help stimulate the immune system. If you minimize those exposures, the immune system won’t develop optimally.” He also added, “The research is telling us that exposure to a higher and more diverse burden of environmental bacteria and specific patterns of gut bacteria appear to boost the immune system’s protection against allergies and asthma”.
Nevertheless, some other factors may affect the composition of an infant’s gut microbiome such as the infant’s gestational age of birth, process by which he/she was delivered, mother’s race/ethnicity, smoking habit before and after birth and even the presence of pets in the home.
The research outcome will be presented next Saturday at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology annual meeting. It adds credence to the significance of breastfeeding for proper child development and also promotes our knowledge about the factors, which affect microbiomes. New study and technologies continue to explicate the complex connections between microorganism, genomics and ourselves, physicians and scientists will better understand both the origins and sequence of disease, to eliminate them.