Breastmilk and the Infant Microbiome
Mother’s milk, the original “superfood,” not only nourishes babies directly; it also feeds friendly gut microbes that support digestion, immune system development, and long-term health.
The resources listed here explain the composition of breast milk and how it contributes to the development of the infant gut microbiome and infant health.
Most of the articles below are open-access and freely available to the public. The only restricted article, “Daughter Dearest…” is available electronically to UC Davis affiliates while on-campus, or from offsite by logging in or using the Library VPN.
Stay up to Date on the Latest Milk Science
Check out SPLASH! milk science update, a bi-monthly publication about milk and lactation written for popular audiences and led by principal investigator UC Davis Professor Carl Whithaus.
Watch Katie Hinde’s 2016 TED Talk: What we don’t know about mother’s milk
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations on breastfeeding
- Garbes, A. (2015, August 26). “The More I Learn About Breast Milk, the More Amazed I Am.” The Stranger
- Hinde, K. (2014). “Sweet Mother Monkey Milk Cortisol Reloaded.” Mammals Suck… Milk!
- Hinde, K. (2016). “Evolving Milk.” UC SD TV
- Hinde, K. (2016, October). “What we don’t know about mother’s milk.” TED Conferences
- Lawless, K. (2018, June 17). “The Bacteria Babies Need.” The New York Times
- Notman, N. (2021, November 15). “The Science of Breast Milk and Baby Formula.” Chemistry World
- Pollack, A. (2015, March 20). “Breast Milk Becomes a Commodity, With Mothers Caught Up in Debate.” The New York Times
- Pollan, M. (2008). “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.” Amazon Prime
- Pollan, M. (2013, May 5). “Some of My Best Friends are Germs.” New York Times Magazine
- Smilowitz, Jennifer T., et al. (2020) “The Infant Gut Microbiome and Probiotics that Work.” The Scientist
- van Tulleken, C. & van Tulleken, X. (2017). “The Human Body: Secrets of Life Revealed,” Series 1, Episode 1. BBC
- World Health Organization recommendations on breastfeeding
- World Health Organization recommendations on breastfeeding during COVID-19 pandemic
- Yong, E. (2016, July 22). “Breastfeeding the Microbiome.” The New Yorker
- Allen-Blevins, C. R., et al. (2015) “Milk bioactives may manipulate microbes to mediate parent–offspring conflict.” Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health: https://doi.org/10.1093/emph/eov007
- Al-Shehri, S. S., et al. (2015). “Breastmilk-saliva interactions boost innate immunity by regulating the oral microbiome in early infancy.” PloS one: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0135047
- Davis J. C., et al. (2016). “Identification of Oligosaccharides in Feces of Breast-fed Infants and Their Correlation with the Gut Microbial Community.” Molecular & Cellular Proteomics: 10.1074/mcp.M116.060665
- Frese, S. A., et al. (2017). “Persistence of Supplemented Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis EVC001 in Breastfed Infants.” mSphere: https://doi.org/10.1128/mSphere.00501-17
- Henrick, B. M., et al. (2018). “Elevated Fecal pH Indicates a Profound Change in the Breastfed Infant Gut Microbiome Due to Reduction of Bifidobacterium over the Past Century.” mSphere: https://doi.org/10.1128/mSphere.00041-18
- Henrick, B. M., et al. (2019). “Colonization by B. infantis EVC001 modulates enteric inflammation in exclusively breastfed infants.” Pedeatric Research: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41390-019-0533-2
- Henrick, B. M., et al. (2021). “Bifidobacteria-mediated immune system imprinting early in life.” Cell: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2021.05.030
- Hinde, K. “Lactational programming of infant behavioral phenotype.” Building Babies. Springer: 10.1007/978-1-4614-4060-4_9
- Hinde, Katie, et al. (2015). “Cortisol in mother’s milk across lactation reflects maternal life history and predicts infant temperament.” Behavioral Ecology: https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/aru186
- Hinde, Katie, et al. (2014). “Holsteins favor heifers, not bulls: biased milk production programmed during pregnancy as a function of fetal sex.” PloS one: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0086169
- Hinde, K., & German, J. B. (2012). “Food in an evolutionary context: insights from mother’s milk.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture: 10.1002/jsfa.5720
- Hinde, K., et al. (2013). “Daughter dearest: sex‐biased calcium in mother’s milk among rhesus macaques.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology: https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.22229
- Klein, L. D., et al. (2018). “Variation among populations in the immune protein composition of mother’s milk reflects subsistence pattern.” Evolution, Medicine, & Public Health: https://doi.org/10.1093/emph/eoy031
- Mitina, A., et al. (2020). “Lipidome analysis of milk composition in humans, monkeys, bovids, and pigs.” BMC Evolutionary Biology: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12862-020-01637-0
- Nielsen, S. D., et al. (2017) “Milk Proteins are Predigested Within the Human Mammary Gland.” Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia: 10.1007/s10911-018-9388-0
- O’Brien, C. E., et al. (2021). “Early probiotic supplementation with B. infantis in breastfed infants leads to persistent colonization at 1 year.” Pediatr Res: 10.1038/s41390-020-01350-0
- O’Sullivan, A. (2015). “Article Commentary: “The Influence of Early Infant-Feeding Practices on the Intestinal Microbiome and Body Composition in Infants.” Nutrition and Metabolic Insights: 10.4137/NMI.S29530.
- Ruiz-Moyano, S. (2013). “Variation in Consumption of Human Milk Oligosaccharides by Infant Gut-Associated Strains of Bifidobacterium breve.” Applied and Environmental Microbiology: 10.1128/AEM.01843-13
- Sela, D. A., et al. (2008). “The genome sequence of Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis reveals adaptations for milk utilization within the infant microbiome.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0809584105
- Smilowitz, J. T., et al. (2013). The Human Milk Metabolome Reveals Diverse Oligosaccharide Profiles. The Journal of Nutrition: 10.3945/jn.113.178772.
- Smilowitz, J. T., et al. (2014). “Breast Milk Oligosaccharides: Structure-Function Relationships in the Neonate.” Annual Review of Nutrition: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-071813-105721
- Smilowitz J.T., et al. (2017). “Safety and tolerability of Bifidobacterium longum subspecies infantis EVC001 supplementation in healthy term breastfed infants: a phase I clinical trial.” BMC Pediatrics: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12887-017-0886-9
- Spevacek, A. R., et al. (2015) “Infant Maturity at Birth Reveals Minor Differences in the Maternal Milk Metabolome in the First Month of Lactation.” The Journal of Nutrition: https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.115.210252
- Totten, S. M. (2014). “Rapid-throughput glycomics applied to human milk oligosaccharide profiling for large human studies.” Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry: 10.1007/s00216-014-8261-2
- Zivkovic, A. M., et al. (2011). “Human milk glycobiome and its impact on the infant gastrointestinal microbiota.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(Supplement 1): 10.1073/pnas.1000083107