With such a wide range of functions, it’s clear to see how the bacteria inside an infant’s gut might influence their health and wellbeing. The link between gut flora, health and disease becomes apparent from the earliest stages of life and continues as the infant grows and develops.3-4 However, a healthy gut cannot be achieved with just any bacteria. Infants need to acquire the right types of bacteria.
Initial colonisation of an infant’s gut flora is largely acquired at birth. After this initial colonisation, the composition is influenced by a complex variety of physiological, cultural, and environmental factors.5-9
Early dietary exposure has a strong influence on the composition of the gut flora.10 Breastmilk naturally contains a range of oligosaccharides – non-digestible carbohydrates that selectively stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria, such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli.10-12 Breastfed infants are more likely to develop a gut flora dominated by these types of bacteria compared to formula-fed infants.11-12