Breastmilk Feeding Practices Are Associated with the Co-Occurrence of Bacteria in Mothers' Milk and the Infant Gut: the CHILD Cohort Study

Cell Host Microbe. 2020 Aug 12;28(2):285-297.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2020.06.009. Epub 2020 Jul 10.


Gut microbiota play a critical role in infant health. It is now accepted that breastmilk contains live bacteria from endogenous and exogenous sources, but it remains unclear whether these bacteria transfer to the infant gut and whether this process is influenced by breastmilk feeding practices. Here, we show that certain bacteria, including Streptococcus spp. and Veillonella dispar, co-occur in mothers' milk and their infants' stool, and co-occurrence is reduced when infants receive pumped breastmilk. The relative abundances of commonly shared species are positively correlated between breastmilk and stool. Overall, gut microbiota composition is strongly associated with breastfeeding exclusivity and duration but not breastmilk feeding mode (nursing versus pumping). Moreover, breastmilk bacteria contributed to overall gut microbiota variation to a similar extent as other modifiers of the infant microbiome, such as birth mode. These results provide evidence that breastmilk may transfer bacteria to the infant gut and influence microbiota development.

Keywords: CHILD Cohort Study; breastfeeding; breastmilk; gut; human milk; infant; microbiome; microbiota; pumped milk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding / methods*
  • Breast Milk Expression / methods
  • Cohort Studies
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Milk, Human / microbiology*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Streptococcus / classification
  • Streptococcus / isolation & purification*
  • Veillonella / isolation & purification*


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S

Supplementary concepts

  • Veillonella dispar