Early immune system development
Establishing a healthy gut microbiome
Development of the infant gut bacteria
Breast milk has been shown to be a source of a wide range of bacteria for the infant gut and potentially to be specific for each infant. Interestingly, breast milk has been shown to contain microbes typically associated with the gut.
Antibiotics given, even briefly, during the first year of life have been shown to alter the constitution of the infant microbiota by depleting the bacterial diversity and its ability to colonise the gut. This change to the development of the microbiota is likely to have long-term implications for health, as a higher level of beneficial bacteria is associated with lower levels of atopic disease and obesity in children and adults.
Probiotics have been shown to support the development of the infant gut bacteria and specifically to help reduce the incidence of allergy . They may be particularly efficacious in instances where antibiotics have been required.