Investigating colonization patterns of the infant gut microbiome during the introduction of solid food and weaning from breastmilk: A cohort study protocol

S. Dizzell, J.C. Stearns, J. Li, N. van Best, L. Bervoets, M. Mommers, J. Penders, K.M. Morrison, E.K. Hutton*, GI-MDH Consortium Partners

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The first exposures to microbes occur during infancy and it is suggested that this initial colonization influences the adult microbiota composition. Despite the important role that the gut microbiome may have in health outcomes later in life, the factors that influence its development during infancy and early childhood have not been characterized fully. Guidelines about the introduction of solid foods and cessation of breastfeeding, which is thought to have a significant role in the transition to a more adult-like microbiota, are not based on microbiome research. There is even less understanding of approaches used to transition to solid food in the preterm population. The purpose of this study is to identify the impact of early life dietary events on gut microbiome community structures and function among infants born at term and pre-term. We plan to prospectively monitor the gut microbiome of infants during two critical timepoints in microbial development: the introduction of solid foods and cessation from breastmilk. A total of 35 participants from three primary observational birth cohorts (two full-term cohorts and one pre-term cohort) will be enrolled in this sub-study. Participants will be asked to collect stool samples and fill out a study diary before, during and after the introduction of solids and again during weaning from breastmilk. We will use frequent fecal sampling analyzed using 16S rRNA gene profiling, metagenomics, metabolomics, and targeted bacterial culturing to identify and characterize the microbial communities, as well as provide insight into the phenotypic characteristics and functional capabilities of the microbes present during these transitional periods of infancy. This study will provide a comprehensive approach to detailing the effects of dietary transition from breastmilk to a more adult-like solid food diet on the microbiome and in doing so will contribute to evidence-based infant nutrition guidance.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0248924
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2021



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