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The Importance of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding has been a controversial topic for many reasons, with many people on both sides. The benefits of breastfeeding are numerous, as shown by various research papers. Not only does it provide nourishment, but it is also one of the first vehicles for intestinal bacterial colonization. The consumption of breast milk modulates the fragile body of the newborn to develop and promote both tolerance and immunity to various diseases. A study recently published in the ACS Infectious Diseases has shown that human milk oligosaccharides demonstrate antimicrobial and antibiofilm properties against the Group B Streptococcus. This infection is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus agalactiae and can cause very serious illness, sometimes even death, especially in newborns. The study conducted by Ackerman and colleagues (2017) has shown that certain women’s breast milk contains protective compounds which fight against the bacteria.  Samples from various donors of human breast milk which contained oligosaccharides were tested using mass spectrometry. The results showed that the oligosaccharides directly killed the bacteria and at the same time some physically broke down the biofilm, which protects the bacteria itself.

Many organizations, such as the World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies for at least 6 months, followed by integration into a mixed diet through two years of age and beyond. Many campaigns around the world have started to encourage mothers to breastfeed, as well as trying to make society more acceptant of breastfeeding in public.

Ackerman, Dorothy L., et al. “Human Milk Oligosaccharides Exhibit Antimicrobial and Antibiofilm Properties against Group B Streptococcus.” ACS Infectious Diseases, vol. 3, no. 8, 2017, pp. 595–605., doi:10.1021/acsinfecdis.7b00064.
Edited by: Kaylynn Crawford and Daryn Dever