Metabolomic and Metataxonomic Fingerprinting of Human Milk Suggests Compositional Stability over a Natural Term of Breastfeeding to 24 Months

Natalie S Shenker, Alvaro Perdones-Montero, Adam Burke, Sarah Stickland, Julie A K McDonald, Kate Alexander-Hardiman, James Flanagan, Zoltan Takats, Simon J S Cameron

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Abstract

Sparse data exist regarding the normal range of composition of maternal milk beyond the first postnatal weeks. This single timepoint, observational study in collaboration with the 'Parenting Science Gang' citizen science group evaluated the metabolite and bacterial composition of human milk from 62 participants (infants aged 3-48 months), nearly 3 years longer than previous studies. We utilised rapid evaporative ionisation mass spectrometry (REIMS) for metabolic fingerprinting and 16S rRNA gene metataxonomics for microbiome composition analysis. Milk expression volumes were significantly lower beyond 24 months of lactation, but there were no corresponding changes in bacterial load, composition, or whole-scale metabolomic fingerprint. Some individual metabolite features (~14%) showed altered abundances in nursling age groups above 24 months. Neither milk expression method nor nursling sex affected metabolite and metataxonomic fingerprints. Self-reported lifestyle factors, including diet and physical traits, had minimal impact on metabolite and metataxonomic fingerprints. Our findings suggest remarkable consistency in human milk composition over natural-term lactation. The results add to previous studies suggesting that milk donation can continue up to 24 months postnatally. Future longitudinal studies will confirm the inter-individual and temporal nature of compositional variations and the use of donor milk as a personalised therapeutic.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3450
Number of pages19
JournalNutrients
Volume12
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2020

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