Breastfeeding plays an important role in providing good gut bacteria to babies until the age of two-and-a-half with little change after this point, says a new research.
The study found that the bacterium, bifidobacterium, was abundant in breast milk that declined rapidly after breastfeeding stopped.
Bifidobacterium is one of the main bacteria used in probiotics, owing to its potential therapeutic properties.
"Targeting the nutrients in breast milk that encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in the infant gut, or providing probiotic containing Bifidobacterium, represent important avenues for future research aimed at restoring the beneficial properties of being breastfed when breast milk is not available, " said Christopher Stewart, researcher from the Newcastle University in the UK.
In addition, once infants were accustomed, there was a rapid turnover in the bacterial community and a loss of most of the Bifidobacterium, replaced by bacteria within the firmicutes phyla, a kind of bacteria, findings revealed.
"Because a diet without breast milk delivers different nutrients to the gut, this rapid turnover in the bacterial community is likely to be in response to the new food sources promoting the growth of a different community," said Stewart.
For the study, published in the journal Nature, the team analysed 12 500 stool samples from 903 children, aged three to 46 months old.
Th findings revealed that microbiome composition and diversity changed over time in three distinct phases: the developmental phase (three to 14 months), transitional phase (15-30 months) and stable phase (31 months onwards).
In addition, vaginal birth was associated with a temporary increase in bacteroides bacteria.
Also, siblings, exposure to pets, and geographical location were the factors in the differences between microbiome profiles.
"We know that the first few years of life are important for microbiome establishment. You are born with very few microbes, and microbial communities assemble on and in your body through those first years of your life," said Joseph Petrosino, Director at the Baylor College of Medicine in the US.