More new research suggests added benefits for babies fed with “amazing” breast milk, saying that breast-feeding moms give their infants antibodies along with microbes that help build a healthy gut immune system.
Breast milk is loaded with infection-fighting microbes, vital to development of a strong immune system and helpful to digestion. It’s even known to be able to change its immunological composition based on a baby’s needs, thanks to receptors in the mammary glands that monitor and read the baby’s saliva. But researchers have also found that the IgG antibodies in breast milk – immunoglobulin – respond to gut microbes in a very complex way as they help to establish proper immune function.
Berkeley immunologist Megan Koch and her team looked at antibodies in infant mice breastfed in the first two weeks of life and found those IgG antibodies effectively prepared the body to manage a broader spectrum of bacteria. Their discoveries have the potential to change the way science looks at immune responses.
Diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis are the result of improper body response in the immune system to specific gut microbes. The newest findings on IgG antibodies opens another path for researchers to explore when studying these immune system diseases, and may provide an opportunity for early therapeutic intervention in the earliest stages of disease.
The new study was published this week in the journal Cell.
The take-away from this work from the research team at the University of California/Berkeley is that mother’s milk contains beneficial microbes and also has what the body needs to accept those microbes. It’s yet more proof that nursing a newborn has many health benefits.