A new research suggests that the breast pumps mothers use to feed their babies may expose the babies to asthma-causing bacteria.
The research was carried out by the University of Manitoba, Canada, and led by Dr Shirin Moossavi, a PhD student studying medical microbiology who compared infants fed via a pump to those who took on milk directly from their mother’s breast.
It found youngsters who are directly breastfed have a richer diversity and number of ‘good bacteria’ in their mouths.
While those fed via a pump have more ‘bad bugs’ that may raise their risk of ‘paediatric asthma’.
Babies may pick up good bacteria while sucking milk from their mothers’ nipples, while pathogens that live all around us may thrive on breast pumps.
The scientists wrote in the journal Cell Host and Microbe that although breast milk was previously considered sterile,
it is now known to contain a complex community of bacteria that helps establish the infant gut microbiota,’
Daily Mail quoted the researchers as saying that “If this process is disrupted, the infant may develop a dysbiotic microbiota, causing predisposition to chronic diseases such as allergy, asthma and obesity.”
The researchers looked for bacteria genes in breast milk samples from 393 healthy mothers between three and four months after they gave birth to determine whether pumps affect a baby’s microbiome.
Results revealed the milk administered via breast pumps contained higher levels of ‘opportunistic pathogens’, such as Stenotrophomonas and Pseudomonadaceae.
Though opportunistic pathogens can usually be fought off, but they take advantage of someone’s immune system being suppressed – such as when taking antibiotics – to cause infection.
Stenotrophomonas bacteria can lead to urinary tract, blood or respiratory infections while pseudomonadaceae species have been linked to wound infections.
Respiratory infections in particular could increase a baby’s risk of asthma in later life, the researchers said.
In contrast, the study found babies fed milk directly from the breast had a greater number and diversity of microbes in their mouths.
One of these was the species Bifidobacterium, which has been linked to better digestion and a reduced risk of infections.
“Gut microbiota is crucial in the development of the infant’s immune system, disruption of gut microbiota in the first few months of life is associated with atopy and asthma later in childhood,” the researchers said.