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Study finds bacterial profile of breast milk differs when pumped first

A new study offers possible clues to why babies who drink pumped breast milk are at greater risk of asthma, allergies and obesity than those who get breastmilk straight from the breast.

Senior author Meghan Azad, a researcher at Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, says the bacterial content differs between milk that was pumped first and milk delivered straight from the breast.

Pumped milk was associated with less oral bacteria and more potential pathogens.

Researchers considered many potential reasons — including whether the mother delivered vaginally or by caesarean section, if she had previous babies, was overweight, and her age, diet, and ethnicity.

Azad says the one factor that was consistently associated with differences in the milk’s bacterial profile was whether or not the mom fed the baby only at the breast or sometimes using a pump.

The findings were published Wednesday in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

“I wouldn’t want a message from the paper to be that pumped milk is bad because I don’t think that’s the case,” adds Azad, also a Canada Research Chair in Developmental Origins of Chronic Disease at the University of Manitoba.

“In our other research we’ve shown it’s certainly better than formula, but it’s not equivalent to feeding at the breast. So I think we still have more research to do before we know what impact it has on infant health.”

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