Transient effect of infant formula supplementation on the intestinal microbiota

Ning Chin, Gema Méndez-Lagares, Diana H. Taft, Victoria Laleau, Hung Kieu, Nicole R. Narayan, Susan B. Roberts, David A. Mills, Dennis J. Hartigan-O’connor, Valerie J. Flaherman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Breastfeeding is the gold standard for feeding infants because of its long-term benefits to health and development, but most infants in the United States are not exclusively breastfed in the first six months. We enrolled 24 infants who were either exclusively breastfed or supplemented with formula by the age of one month. We collected diet information, stool samples for evaluation of microbiotas by 16S rRNA sequencing, and blood samples for assessment of immune development by flow cytometry from birth to 6 months of age. We further typed the Bifidobacterium strains in stool samples whose 16S rRNA sequencing showed the presence of Bifidobacteriaceae. Supplementation with formula during breastfeeding transiently changed the composition of the gut microbiome, but the impact dissipated by six months of age. For example, Bifidobacterium longum, a bacterial species highly correlated with human milk consumption, was found to be significantly different only at 1 month of age but not at later time points. No immunologic differences were found to be associated with supplementation, including the development of T-cell subsets, B cells, or monocytes. These data suggest that early formula supplementation, given in addition to breast milk, has minimal lasting impact on the gut microbiome or immunity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number807
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Breastfeeding
  • Delivery mode
  • Formula supplementation
  • Immune development
  • Infant diet
  • Microbiome
  • Microbiota–immune system interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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