Breastfeeding greatly benefits your baby’s immune system. Breastmilk contains precious antibodies and enzymes that protect your baby from chronic conditions such as obesity, allergies, asthma, and diabetes.

Unfortunately, most newborns are missing a beneficial gut bacteria that helps in the utilization and absorption of all of breastmilk’s nutrients. Dreaming of Baby speaks with Dr. Tanya Altmann on the importance of breastfeeding and of having the right gut bacteria.

Daniela: Good afternoon, Dr. Tanya Altmann, and welcome to Dreaming of Baby. It’s a pleasure to be speaking with you today. We’re very much looking forward to our discussion on breastfeeding and how this affects a baby’s immune system. Before we start addressing this subject, grateful if you could introduce yourself and your work in this field to our readers.

Dr. Tanya Altmann: Hello. I am a UCLA trained pediatrician, parenting book author and mom of 3 boys. I practice pediatrics in Calabasas, CA with an emphasis on infant and child nutrition and preventive medicine.

How does breastfeeding boost a baby’s immune system?

Daniela: Thank you, Dr. Altmann. To start with our discussion, what role does breastfeeding play in boosting a baby’s immune system?

Dr. Tanya Altmann: Breastfeeding is the ideal source of nutrition for a new baby. Breastmilk contains the right amount of nutrition, as well as special carbohydrates babies need. When breastfeeding, you pass immunoglobulins onto your baby to help protect your little one. In addition, breast milk contains special carbohydrates called human milk oligosaccharides to help feed the good bacteria in your baby’s gut. Basically, breast milk is ideal, but your baby needs to have the right gut bacteria to utilize and absorb all the nutrition in breast milk. Recent research has shown that many babies born in the United States are missing the good gut bacteria needed to use all of the special nutrients in breast milk.

Dr. Tanya Altmann: “Recent research has shown that many babies born in the United States are missing the good gut bacteria needed to use all of the special nutrients in breast milk.”

Daniela: Are babies normally born with this good gut bacteria?

Dr. Tanya Altmann: 100 years ago they were, but due to generations of modern medical interventions like C-Sections, antibiotic use and formula, many babies today aren’t born with the right gut bacteria to utilize all of that liquid gold. Even if today’s mom does everything right, has a vaginal birth, poops on the delivery table and breastfeeds her little one, she may not have the right gut bacteria to pass on to her new baby.

Dr. Tanya Altmann: That’s where probiotics come into play. Probiotics are great for everyone at every age, especially newborns.

Daniela: And can the mom take probiotics during pregnancy to ensure the best start for her child?

Dr. Tanya Altmann: Moms can take probiotics during delivery, and I recommend that. However, research shows that by giving a newborn baby the right probiotic after birth and breastfeeding, a baby’s gut can become colonized with the right good gut bacteria to help protect them for a life of good health.

Dr. Tanya Altmann: A daily probiotic can help babies colonize their gut with good bacteria to help them absorb all of breast milk’s important nutrients. We also know that babies born without good gut bacteria are 5 times more likely to develop allergies and diabetes and 3 times more likely to develop obesity later on in life. So I recommend that all of my patients take a daily probiotic and that breastfed babies get a baby probiotic daily.

Dr. Tanya Altmann: It’s that balance of good gut bacteria over bad gut bacteria that we all need and starting in the first week of life can set your little one up right.

Dr. Tanya Altmann: “Babies born without good gut bacteria are 5 times more likely to develop allergies and diabetes and 3 times more likely to develop obesity later on in life.”

How do C-sections affect baby’s gut health?

Daniela: You mentioned earlier C-sections, how do these affect the baby’s gut health?

Dr. Tanya Altmann: Babies born via C-Section are born with a sterile gut, no good or bad gut bacteria. So whatever a baby is first exposed to, often the hospital, will colonize the babies gut. We’ve known for quite some time that C-Section babies especially need probiotics, but it wasn’t until recently that the right good baby gut bacteria was identified by researchers at U.C. Davis. Now we know that it’s B. Infantis that babies first need when they are born.

Dr. Tanya Altmann: Moms always ask me about Eczema, allergies, asthma, diabetes, and obesity in children as they are skyrocketing due to an improper balance of good vs bad bacteria in babies’ gut. Research shows that when good gut bacteria outweighs the bad, it sets babies up for life-long health. There’s a critical window in babies’ first 6 months of life that determines their health trajectory. If good bacteria are thriving, they’re more likely to develop a healthy metabolism and immune system later in life. So it’s actually the good gut bacteria from mom that helps protect baby.

Daniela: Very interesting. And is this somehow related to what we’ve been hearing quite a lot of: vaginal seeding?
Dr. Tanya Altmann: It is the good bacteria in mom’s gut and stool that passes to baby during vaginal delivery. The good gut bacteria is in the mom’s gut, not the mom’s vagina.

Why are probiotics important for baby?

Daniela:: Thanks for clarifying, so probiotics give that very important B. Infantis to newborns?

Dr. Tanya Altmann: Look for a probiotic that is clinically proven to restore B. infantis in baby’s gut. Such a baby probiotic is easy to give as you just mix the powder packed with a few milliliters of breast milk and feed it to your baby daily. It helps colonize a new baby’s gut with the right good gut bacteria to help a baby utilize all of the important nutrition in breast milk and also protect their gut for life.

Daniela: And can this be done immediately once the baby is born?

Dr. Tanya Altmann: Yes, as soon as baby starts consuming breastmilk or colostrum.

Daniela: How would you know if a baby was born with the good gut bacteria or not? Would there be immediate symptoms or it’s something more long-term?

Dr. Tanya Altmann: Great question! The only way to know for sure would be to culture the baby’s stool, but recent UC Davis research has shown that 97% of babies born in the U.S. no longer have this good gut bacteria.

Dr. Tanya Altmann: Without the good gut bacteria, babies are more likely to develop eczema, allergies, diabetes and other illness and disease. It’s really the first 6 months of life that determines a baby’s health trajectory. If good bacteria are thriving, they’re more likely to develop a healthy metabolism and immune system later in life.

Dr. Tanya Altmann: “Recent UC Davis research has shown that 97% of babies born in the U.S. no longer have this good gut bacteria.”

Daniela: Wow, that’s a staggering figure! You also mentioned antibiotics. Would this be the effect of antibiotics the mom took throughout her life, or when given directly to the baby?

Dr. Tanya Altmann: It could be either, but every time a person takes antibiotics, it alters their gut bacteria, so if a mom doesn’t have the right gut bacteria, either from taking antibiotics or maybe she was born via C-Section, that determines what gut bacteria her baby will get from her.

How can I prepare for my breastfeeding journey?

Daniela:: Interesting. As you’ve noted, the effects of not having good gut bacteria are plenty and this further emphasizes the importance of probiotics and breastfeeding. How can moms-to-be prepare for their breastfeeding journey?

Dr. Tanya Altmann: Before delivery, take a breastfeeding class if possible and/or watch a video on nursing to help get you used to the concept. Ask your pediatrician for some lactation resources such as a consultant or class in your area. Although breastfeeding is natural, not all babies are born experts (and neither are us moms!). Breastfeeding may take some patience and help and that’s ok. Even one meeting with a lactation consultant can make a world of difference to get you and your little one on track for breastfeeding success. So don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Daniela:: Are there any indications that can help moms ensure that their baby is getting enough milk?

Dr. Tanya Altmann: Your baby should be having at least few wet and dirty diapers a day and as your real milk comes in, stools will turn from black to brown to green to yellowish. That’s how you know your baby is getting your breast milk. Also, your pediatrician will closely follow your babies weight the first few weeks of age. Initially, babies may lose a few ounces, but once your milk is in and baby is feeding well, by 5 to 7 days of age your baby should start gaining weight and be back at birth weight by 2 weeks or so of age. If you have any concerns that your baby may not be eating enough, having enough dirty or wet diapers or isn’t gaining weight, see your pediatrician as soon as possible.

Daniela:: Thank you for this, Dr. Altmann. On a final note, what would be your one piece of take-home advice to a mom-to-be?

Dr. Tanya Altmann: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Although breastfeeding is natural, babies aren’t born experts. Ask your pediatrician or a lactation consultant for help. Even one or two sessions can make a huge difference in breastfeeding success. We know that breast milk is the best first thing for baby, but recent research shows that it needs to be combined with probiotics to help babies utilize all that liquid gold and really set baby up for a healthy gut and future life. And take time to enjoy every minute!

Daniela:: Thank you, Dr. Altmann! What you’ve shared with us today will be helpful to many moms on their own journeys.

Dr. Altmann is a pediatrician, parenting book author, and mom of 3 boys. Read more about Dr. Altmann, here.

Evivo is clinically proven to restore B. infantis in baby’s gut. Evivo can help babies colonize their gut with good bacteria to help them absorb all of breast milk’s important nutrients.

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