Human milk microbes: Strategies to improve delivery to the infant

Semin Perinatol. 2021 Oct;45(6):151451. doi: 10.1016/j.semperi.2021.151451. Epub 2021 Jun 16.


Mother's own milk provides personalized nutrition and immune protection to the developing infant. The presence of healthy microbes plays an important role in the infant's gut by programming the microbiota and excluding potential pathogens. This review describes the important components in mother's own milk that contribute to its superiority for infant nutrition and suggest potential strategies to replicate these factors in alternative feedings when sufficient milk is unavailable. Current strategies to supplement, substitute and replicate mother's own milk including microbial restoration, use of unpasteurized donor human milk, probiotics and fortification are discussed. Critical work remains to be done in understanding the human milk microbiome and metabolome and in improving lactation support for mothers of preterm infants. Increasing delivery of mother's own milk and milk components to infants would likely positively impact infant mortality and health worldwide.

Keywords: Human milk; Immune factors; Infant microbiome; Infant nutrition; Lactation; Milk microbiota; Milk substitutes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Milk, Human*
  • Mothers
  • Probiotics*