To determine the influence of either exclusive breast-feeding or formula feeding on both composition and quantity of the gut microbiota in infants, we have developed real-time, quantitative PCR assays for the detection of Bifidobacterium spp. and Clostridium difficile. Furthermore, we have monitored the prevalence and counts of Escherichia coli by applying a previously described real-time PCR assay. We found all 100 infants tested to be colonized by Bifidobacterium spp. The bifidobacterial counts were comparable between the 50 breast-fed and 50 formula-fed infants with median values of 10.56 log10 and 10.24 log10 CFU g(-1) wet weight faeces, respectively. C. difficile was detected in 14% of the breast-fed and 30% of the formula-fed infants. In addition, the C. difficile counts were significantly lower in breast-fed infants than in the formula-fed group (median values of 3.28 log10 and 7.43 log10 CFU g(-1), respectively; p=0.03). The prevalence of E. coli in the breast-fed and formula-fed group was 80% and 94%, respectively. Also, the E. coli counts in colonized infants was significantly lower in the breast-fed infants than in the formula-fed group (median values of 9.11 log10 and 9.57 log10 CFU g(-1), respectively; p=0.004). We conclude that the prevalence and counts of C. difficile as well as E. coli are significantly lower in the gut microbiota of breast-fed infants than in that of formula-fed infants, whereas the prevalence and counts of Bifidobacterium spp. is similar among both groups.