Breastfeeding is considered the gold standard for infants’ nutrition, as mother’s own milk (MOM) provides nutritional and bioactive factors functional to optimal development. Early life microbiome is one of the main contributors to short and long-term infant health status, with the gut microbiota (GM) being the most studied ecosystem. Some human milk (HM) bioactive factors, such as HM prebiotic carbohydrates that select for beneficial bacteria, and the specific human milk microbiota (HMM) are emerging as early mediators in the relationship between the development of GM in early life and clinical outcomes. The beneficial role of HM becomes even more crucial for preterm infants, who are exposed to significant risks of severe infection in early life as well as to adverse short and long-term outcomes. When MOM is unavailable or insufficient, donor human milk (DHM) constitutes the optimal nutritional choice. However, little is known about the specific effect of DHM on preterm GM and its potential functional implication on HMM. The purpose of this narrative review is to summarize recent findings on HMM origin and composition and discuss the role of HMM on infant health and development, with a specific focus on preterm infants.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited