Breast milk appears to build healthy microbial communities in the baby's gut that is the perfect preparation for solid foods, and babies who are not exclusively breastfed in the first few months of life are more prone to stomach ache and colic, say researchers from the University of North Carolina.
Adding solids or formula in the first few months changes the gut bacteria, and makes the introduction of solids more difficult.
The researchers analysed the gut bacteria of babies aged from two weeks to 14 months, and discovered a clear difference in the microbiomes of babies that had been exclusively breastfed and those given formula as a supplement.
Once solids were introduced, babies that were exclusively breastfed started producing 20 new bacterial enzymes that eased digestion, and which were not found in the gut of babies who had also been given formula.
(Source: Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, 2015; doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2015.00003)