A new study has revealed that breastfeeding better prepares a baby’s stomach for the transition to solid food, hence better equipping them for potentially an early life with fewer stomach woes. Researchers from the UNC School of Medicine and UNC College of Arts and Sciences found that a baby’s diet during the first few months of life has a profound influence on the composition, diversity and stability of the gut microbiome and these factors, in turn, influence the baby’s ability to transition from milk to solid foods and may have long-term health effects.

Senior author Andrea Azcarate-Peril said that they found that babies who are fed only breast milk have microbial communities that seem more ready for the introduction of solid foods. Peril added that the transition to solids is much more dramatic for the microbiomes of babies that are not exclusively breastfed and they think the microbiomes of non-exclusively breastfed babies could contribute to more stomach aches and colic. The discovery adds to the growing awareness that the gut microbiome plays a major role in helping us digest food and fight pathogens, among other functions.

First author Researcher Amanda Thompson added that this study provides yet more support for recommendations by the World Health Organization and others to breastfeed exclusively during the first six months of life and they can see from the data that including formula in an infant’s diet does change the gut bacteria even if you are also breastfeeding. Exclusive breastfeeding seems to really smooth out the transition to solid foods. The study advances their understanding of how the gut microbiome develops early in life, which is clearly a really important time period for a person’s current and future health, said Thompson.

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