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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Caesarean births and formula feeding affect infant gut bacteria.

Many babies in developed countries are born by elective caesarean section and are formula fed instead of breast-fed. This may affect the type and amount of bacteria found in a baby’s gut.

Bacteria in the gut play an important role in human health especially the developing immune system. Disruption of the gut bacteria could increase risk for diseases such as allergies and asthma.

The development of the bacteria in an infant’s gut is not yet fully understood. The first North American study, to look at the infant gut is the Canadian Health Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study, a birth cohort involving 3500 newborn infants.

Research question: 
Does being born by caesarean section affect the bacteria in the guts of babies? 
Does breast-feeding vs. bottle-feeding affect the bacteria in the guts of babies?

The study looked at data for 24 healthy infants. 
Of this infant sample:
·         25% were born by caesarean delivery, 75% were born vaginally
·         42% were breastfed until 4 months of age, 58% were formula fed

Fecal samples (stool) from each infant were collected at 4 months of age.
The stool was analyzed to determine the kind and amount of bacteria in the gut.  

  • Children born by c-section had a different variety of bacteria, including lower amounts of particular good bacteria.
  • Children who were formula fed had a higher amount of less desirable gut bacteria.

These differences found in the gut bacteria, may explain why infants born through caesarean delivery are at higher risk of some childhood diseases, like asthma, allergies and obesity. Breastfeeding helps protect against these diseases.

Conclusion: The method of delivery and the type of feeding can affect a child’s gut bacteria and future health. It is important to take these differences into consideration when parents and doctors make decisions about the mode of delivery for an infant and how to feed in early life.

Check out these links for more related articles.

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