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Breastfeeding: Positive Influence on the Baby’s Intestinal Microbiota
May22

Breastfeeding: Positive Influence on the Baby’s Intestinal Microbiota

By Roberta Attanasio “Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development”, the World Health Organization tells us. Breastfeeding confers short-term and long-term benefits on both child and mother, and virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, as well as the support of their family, the health care system and society at large. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Babies are born ready to learn to breastfeed. During pregnancy a woman’s body gains weight and changes to support breastfeeding. Think of the first months of life as the “fourth trimester” where you and your baby get to know each other. Breastfeeding is part of getting to know yourself and your baby on a whole different level.” One of the benefits of breastfeeding derives from the influence of breast milk on the gut microbiota — the complex ecological community made up of the trillions of microbes that inhabit the gastro-intestinal tract. This community of microbes is extremely diverse and dynamic — it varies between individuals and it fluctuates according to several factors, as for example age, diet and disease. The gut microbiota colonizes babies at birth, and undergoes many changes during early life. It interacts with the immune system and it drives immune development and maturation from birth. Bruce German, a food scientist (University of California, Davis), told Michael Pollan at the New York Times “Mother’s milk, being the only mammalian food shaped by natural selection, is the Rosetta stone for all food. And what it’s telling us is that when natural selection creates a food, it is concerned not just with feeding the child but the child’s gut bugs too.” Results from recent studies indicate that early exposure to secretory IgA contained in maternal milk is important for maintaining a healthy gut microbiota. Secretory IgA is one of the different types of antibody and is a first line of defense in the intestine — it protects us from harmful microbes and toxins. It is also produced in the mammary gland by a specific cell type, the so-called plasma cell, and is a major component of breast milk. The beneficial effects of maternal secretory IgA persist even after weaning. Now, results from a new study (Establishment of Intestinal Microbiota during Early Life: a Longitudinal, Explorative Study of a Large Cohort of Danish Infants) published this month in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, show that breastfeeding promotes the growth of lactic acid bacteria in the baby’s gut flora — these bacteria are beneficial to the development of the child’s immune system. Tine Rask Licht, one of the researchers involved in the study, said “We have become increasingly aware of how crucially important a...

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Breastfeeding: Benefits of Early Exposure to Maternal Antibodies
Feb13

Breastfeeding: Benefits of Early Exposure to Maternal Antibodies

By Roberta Attanasio “Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large. Colostrum, the yellowish, sticky breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy, is recommended by World Health Organization as the perfect food for the newborn, and feeding should be initiated within the first hour after birth.” According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Babies are born ready to learn to breastfeed. During pregnancy a woman’s body gains weight and changes to support breastfeeding. Think of the first months of life as the “fourth trimester” where you and your baby get to know each other. Breastfeeding is part of getting to know yourself and your baby on a whole different level.” One of the benefits of breastfeeding derives from the influence of breast milk on the gut microbiota — the complex ecological community made up of the trillions of microbes that inhabit the gastro-intestinal tract. This community of microbes is extremely diverse and dynamic — it varies between individuals and it fluctuates according to several factors, as for example age, diet and disease. The gut microbiota colonizes babies at birth, and undergoes many changes during early life. It interacts with the immune system and it drives immune development and maturation from birth. Bruce German, a food scientist (University of California, Davis), told Michael Pollan at the New York Times “Mother’s milk, being the only mammalian food shaped by natural selection, is the Rosetta stone for all food. And what it’s telling us is that when natural selection creates a food, it is concerned not just with feeding the child but the child’s gut bugs too.” Results from recent studies indicate that early exposure to secretory IgA contained in maternal milk is important for maintaining a healthy gut microbiota. Secretory IgA is one of the different types of antibody and is a first line of defense in the intestine — it protects us from harmful microbes and toxins. It is also produced in the mammary gland by a specific cell type, the so-called plasma cell, and is a major component of breast milk. Now, results from a new study published on line (February 3, 2014) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Secretory antibodies in breast milk promote long-term intestinal homeostasis by regulating the gut microbiota and host gene expression) show that the beneficial effects of maternal secretory IgA persist after weaning. In newborn mice and humans, secretory IgA derives almost entirely from breast milk. However, both mice and humans start...

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Lead Exposure in Infants: The Role of Breastfeeding
Jan25

Lead Exposure in Infants: The Role of Breastfeeding

By Roberta Attanasio Lead, a toxic heavy metal, is the well-known cause of a global epidemic. It has acute and chronic effects on human health, causing neurological, cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal, haematological and reproductive effects. Children under the age of 6 are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely and adversely influence mental and physical development. In the U.S., lead poisoning has been called the “silent epidemic” — children are exposed mostly because of the remodeling of old houses painted before lead paint was banned in 1978. Indeed, lead paint is one of the most common health hazards. Children exposed to lead experience brain damage, behavioral problems and developmental delays. Recently (December 2013), a study found that high levels of lead in Washington D.C. water coincided with increased numbers of miscarriages in the early 2000s (Fetal Death and Reduced Birth Rates Associated with Exposure to Lead-Contaminated Drinking Water). In this case, exposure to lead in pregnant mothers was caused by a change in the drinking water disinfectant — the new chemical made the water more corrosive for lead pipes and plumbing, resulting in unintended release and transfer of lead to drinking water. Human milk is a well-known source of lead exposure in infants. Lead is transported from the mother’s blood to breast milk — however, the mechanisms of this transport are not clear. To better understand the role that breast milk plays in infant exposure to lead, Adrienne Ettinger (School of Public Health, Yale University) and her collaborators measured the concentrations of lead present in maternal blood, plasma, and breast milk samples at 1 month postpartum. They also measured the concentrations of lead present  in infant blood samples at 3 months of age. The samples were collected during a study of lactating women in Mexico City, Mexico. The results of the study (Maternal blood, plasma, and breast milk lead: lactational transfer and contribution to infant exposure) are published in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives (January 2014). The scientists found that the concentrations of lead varied in all samples tested, and that lead may sometime concentrate in breast milk — in other words, the concentration of lead in breast milk may be higher than the concentration of lead in maternal plasma. The scientists suggest that breast milk is a significant and important source of infant lead exposure. Testing the mothers’ blood for lead concentrations mat not give a reliable estimate of lead concentrations in their breast milk. Therefore, early testing of babies for lead levels may be important to avoid potential lead poisoning through...

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It’s World Breastfeeding Week!
Aug04

It’s World Breastfeeding Week!

By The Editors World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from 1 to 7 August in more than 170 countries to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. It commemorates the Innocenti Declaration made by WHO and UNICEF policy-makers in August 1990 to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. According to the Innocenti Declaration, breastfeeding is a unique process that:  Provides ideal nutrition for infants and contributes to their healthy growth and development. Reduces incidence and severity of infectious diseases, thereby lowering infant morbidity and mortality. Contributes to women’s health by reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and by increasing the spacing between pregnancies. Provides social and economic benefits to the family and the nation. Provides most women with a sense of satisfaction when successfully carried out. Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is six months old, and continued breastfeeding with the addition of nutritious complementary foods for up to two years or beyond.     You can read below the objectives of World Breastfeeding Week 2013: 1. To draw attention to the importance of Peer Support in helping mothers to establish and sustain breastfeeding. 2. To inform people of the highly effective benefits of Peer Counselling, and unite efforts to expand peer counselling programmes. 3. To encourage breastfeeding supporters, regardless of their educational background, to step forward and be trained to support mothers and babies. 4. To identify local community support contacts for breastfeeding mothers, that women can go to for help and support after giving birth. 5. To call on governments and maternity facilities globally to actively implement the Ten Steps, in particular Step 10, to improve duration and rates of exclusive...

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