Ask Dr. Nandi: Breastfeeding may help keep babies safe from dangerous bacteria

Posted at 5:37 PM, Oct 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-22 17:37:39-04

When it comes to feeding your newborn, is breastfeeding best?  A new study found compelling evidence that just may surprise you.  

As drug-resistant bacteria continues to thrive around the world, research has found breastfeeding may actually fend off dangerous bacteria in your newborn.

This study by Finnish researchers found that babies who were breastfed for at least six months had fewer antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their guts when compared to babies that were breastfed for shorter periods or not at all.  

So this indicates that breastfeeding helps to protect infants. Because remember, if bacteria are antibiotic resistant, that means they can’t be killed by drugs that were created to defeat them. And the germs can continue to grow.  

The researchers did find that women who were given intravenous antibiotic treatment during delivery had newborns with a higher amount of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their gut.

But, I stress the importance of not shunning antibiotics in this situation. They are given for various health reasons but women often get antibiotics during labor if they tested positive for Group B Strep bacteria.  This helps prevent babies from getting a Group B Strep infection, which can lead to life-threatening complications in infants. 

Yes, the good news is that the study did find breastfeeding part of the time also lowered the number of bacteria resistant to antibiotics.  

Now I know breastfeeding can be challenging and many women don’t breastfeed for a variety of reasons. But you can still help your newborn stay healthy and strong by:

  1. Keeping them away from people who are sick.  
  2. By washing your hands often with soap and water. And asking others to do the same.  
  3. It’s also important to make sure they get the recommended vaccinations.   
  4. And lastly, once your baby starts on solid foods, remember food is medicine.  So choose a variety of healthy nourishing foods like sweet potatoes, fruits, oats, barley, and rice.