This Is What Pumping Breast Milk Does to Its Microbial Makeup

Researchers discovered that pumping breast milk on a regular basis has an effect on the composition of the milk the mother produces. (Image: Screenshot / YouTube)
Researchers discovered that pumping breast milk on a regular basis has an effect on the composition of the milk the mother produces. (Image: Screenshot / YouTube)

Since women today are as engaged in their careers as men, many often do not find enough time to breastfeed their babies. This is what has fueled the popularity of breast pumps over the past few decades. But a recent study shows that milk from mothers who routinely use breast pumps has a different microbial makeup when compared to women who breastfeed directly.

Microbial changes

The study looked at the microbial content of breast milk sourced from almost 400 mothers between the third and fourth month after they gave birth. Researchers discovered that pumping breast milk on a regular basis had an effect on the composition of the milk. “Breast milk from mothers who rarely pumped tended to have higher levels of mouth microbes from the infant and a greater diversity of microbial species… indirect feeding was associated with higher levels of certain potentially pathogenic microbes,” according to The Scientist.

Milk from women who pump regularly also had fewer bifidobacteria that are considered to be beneficial in nature. The results suggest that infant mouth microbes might play a key role in determining what microbes are found in mother’s milk.  If this were true and turned out to be advantageous for the baby, it would mean that feeding infants with pumped milk is not such a good idea. However, the researchers believe that it is too soon to reach such a conclusion and more studies on the subject are required.

(Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

Milk from women who pump regularly had fewer bifidobacteria that are considered to be beneficial in nature. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

Another study conducted by Vanderbilt University looked at the role of sugars in women’s milk. They extracted sugars from five breast milk samples and applied it to the cultures of group B strep, a type of bacteria that is known to infect pregnant women and that is extremely dangerous to infants. The oligosaccharides (saccharide polymers that contain a small number of simple sugars) from one of the women ended up killing a bacterial colony. The bacteria-fighting activities in the remaining four samples were observed to be moderate to low.

“Our results show that these sugars have a one-two punch… First, they sensitize the target bacteria and then they kill them. Biologists sometimes call this ‘synthetic lethality’ and there is a major push to develop new antimicrobial drugs with this capability,” Steven Townsend, senior author of the report, said in a statement.

Breast pump vs direct feeding

Breastfeeding offers several advantages to the baby. First, breastfeeding is more comfortable for the infant as they can rest on their mother’s breasts when needed. It also tends to strengthen the bond between a baby and its mother, and it is an immediate solution to a child’s hunger since there is no waiting for a bottle to be prepared.

(Image: Screenshot / YouTube)

Breastfeeding tends to strengthen the bond between a baby and its mother. (Image: Screenshot / YouTube)

A study conducted on 3,296 infants looked at how breast milk feeding patterns were tied with children’s asthma diagnosis when they were three years of age. “Results from the study revealed that all types of feeding during infancy, including pumped breast milk only, a combination of pumped breast milk and formula, and formula only, were associated with higher levels of asthma in the children later in life. The only type of feeding that was associated with a lowered risk of asthma? Direct, straight from the breast nursing,” according to Babble.

Breastfeeding also saves money since you don’t need to buy any expensive pumping equipment, bottles, and so on. Plus, there are no dishes to clean up later.

Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our weekly email

How Neo Chinese Online Storytelling Is Helping Spread Soft Power
From the Silent Era: Best of Buster Keaton’s Stunts