Article: “Pumping may be linked to an altered microbial mix in breast milk” by Laura Sanders
Source: Science News
Date Published: April 1, 2019
Summary: A study compared the microbial makeup of breast milk from mothers who do not pump at all to breast milk from mothers who pump. Although the microbes in breast milk is fairly unique from person to person, the researchers found two main differences. The milk from women who pumped had more bacteria that could cause infections under optimal conditions and fewer bifidobacteria, which are thought to be beneficial bacteria. It is still unknown as to what impact these differences have on the children, if any, and the origin for these bacteria is also under debate. Some believe the bacteria from the gut travel to the breast and get into the milk, while others think that babies’ oral bacteria affects the bacteria in the breast. There is some evidence that ‘baby backwash’ might trigger infection-fighting proteins in milk when the baby is fed directly from the breast, so this would not occur in milk that is pumped.
Connections: This is related to what we were talking about with the human microbiome and how it can be affected by many different factors. The way a mother feeds her baby not only affects the microbiome of the baby but the microbiome of her breast and breast milk, as well.
Critical Analysis: I did not know that the way a baby receives breast milk can change the type of bacteria that occur within the breast milk itself. Since the milk is made within the mother, I thought that only factors within the mother would affect it, so it is really interesting that babies play such a large role in that microbiome. The information appears to be scientifically accurate since the author included some quotes from one of the scientists who did the research and did not add much of her own opinion when talking about the information from the research. It was written well to relay the information from the scientists to people who may not have any science background. It was easy to understand and follow.
Question: Once the mother is done breast feeding, do any of the microbes remain in the breast? Do they get flushed out with the milk or die? If they do remain, are they there for the rest of her life or will they eventually go away?