Study Shows Link Between Breastmilk Nutrients, Seasons

A first-of-its-kind study found that the composition and nutrients of breastmilk can change with the seasons. The study highlighted changes in not only breastmilk sugars but also gut microbiota, health and growth in the same mother-baby pairs over time.

Published in the January issue of Scientific Reports and designed and co-authored by Robin Bernstein, an anthropology professor at University of Colorado, Bolder, the study concluded that the seasonal changes in a mother’s environment, and therefore, diet can have a significant impact on sugars found in breastmilk. This can impact the baby’s gut bacteria and the baby’s overall health since those bacteria feed off the sugars naturally present in breastmilk.

Co-authored by researchers at the University of California, Davis and the Medical Research Council from the United Kingdom, the study focused on mothers in Gambia and analyzed samples from 33 mother and baby pairs at four, 16 and 20 weeks postpartum. During the wet season, when there is less food and more stress, breastmilk contained about 20 percent fewer milk oligosaccharides – complex sugars that feed a baby’s gut bacteria.

Hey Mom, you'll enjoy these too!
Babies exposed to more sugar lacto-N-fucopentaose tended to be sick less, those with more sugar 3′- sialyllactose showed healthier growth patterns and baby’s with higher levels of Dialister, Prevotella and Bifidobacteria bacteria had higher levels of intestinal inflammation.

“This study helps us better understand how a woman’s environment might influence the composition of her milk and how the composition of her milk might have real-life consequences for her baby,” said Bernstein in an interview with the university newspaper.

Ultimately more studies will be needed to truely conclusive cause and effect relationship. However, the authors are hopeful that future studies could lead to supplements that would help nursing mothers in challenging environments ensure their babies are getting the healthiest breastmilk.

About the Author

Everyday Mom Rachel
Author with 187 posts
More about Everyday Mom Rachel

Recent Articles


  • itsahero February 22, 2017 08.17 pm

    This is so cool! One of the many many reasons I’m totally fascinated by breastmilk (and why I’ll continue to breastfeed my daughter until she’s 2 or 3.)

  • GlamKaren February 22, 2017 08.41 pm

    Wow – this is really interesting information for new moms and the big picture of breast feeding. I think its important that we are aware of the facts to keep our babies healthy.

  • Tereza February 22, 2017 10.15 pm

    This is ever so interesting! I’ve never heard of this and am not a mum so can’t tell but it’s definitely an amazing study! x

  • thecoffeemom0617 February 23, 2017 12.06 am

    I always thought it was so cool how breastmilk changes. I never knew it changed seasonally though.

  • Terri Steffes February 23, 2017 01.50 am

    I was sure that was true. My baby had more fat in the winter and less in the summer. Interesting read!

  • Joanna Brittain February 23, 2017 02.46 am

    I had no idea, but it definitely doesn’t surprise me. Interesting for sure.

  • Cynthia @craftoflaughter February 23, 2017 03.03 am

    This is some interesting information! I knew milk changed with diet and stress but I didn’t realize it is effected by seasons.

  • Sheila February 23, 2017 03.07 am

    Breastmilk is seriously amazing! I had no idea it changed seasonally though. That’s so cool.

  • Salt + Light February 23, 2017 03.07 am

    I am not a mom yet but am planning on breastfeeding when I am! So crazy how it changes though! I did not know that!

  • Esther Pisano February 23, 2017 04.06 am

    Breastmilk is so incredible! I love learning about it

  • Tabitha Shakespeare February 23, 2017 07.30 am

    We are going on 17 months breastfeeding and little girl has only been sick once! I think there is definitely something special about it!

  • Robin Rue February 23, 2017 01.40 pm

    This is really interesting. I didn’t make it very long breastfeeding but the benefits are amazing.

  • Katrina Sumilang February 23, 2017 03.14 pm

    16 months and going! Breastmilk is designed so perfectly!

  • reesann723 February 23, 2017 10.59 pm

    Wow this is so interesting to me!!! I never would have thought this to be true.

  • workoutwithdi February 23, 2017 11.23 pm

    I respect any mothers right to feed how she wants, but this just solidifies that breast milk is better for the baby. Other studies I looked at when I studied nutrition (5 years ago) showed that the macros of Breast milk changes as the baby grows too. Our bodies are amazing!

  • Heather February 24, 2017 01.03 am

    This is so interesting! I am a huge advocate of breast feeding, and extended breast feeding. It is amazing the information that has come out recently about breast milk.

  • Kiwi February 24, 2017 01.55 am

    The human body is amazing! I believe breastmilk can change due to the environment I am learning something new everyday and moreso its the best for our kids!

  • Heather February 24, 2017 11.21 pm

    This is also a fascinating topic for me. I intended on breastfeeding both my daughters but ended up bottle feeding.

  • Lydia February 25, 2017 01.40 am

    I had no idea, this is so interesting! I think breast milk is so much healthier for a baby, but to each mother her own!

  • almostindianwife February 25, 2017 01.53 am

    Wow this is so interesting! I had no idea! I’ve always been so surprised on all of the things breastmilk can do. I even saw it cure my son’s eye infection!

  • Dawn McAlexander February 25, 2017 03.49 am

    It is really interesting to see what can be linked and is important but we didn’t know it. Who would have thought that these two things would have been linked? And it is very important.

  • Amber Nelson February 26, 2017 01.05 am

    That is awesome! If you can breastfeed, I definitely encourage it. There are so many health benefits!

  • Cecilia Cannon February 27, 2017 04.10 pm

    I am done breastfeeding my kids but I love knowing that I made the right decision to breast feed all 3 at least a year.

  • jlawsonn February 28, 2017 01.36 am

    Breast feeding has so many benefits (I do not judge those who cannot or who chose not to). I was never aware that there was an seasonal impact that is very interesting

  • Blonde Seeking Ambition February 28, 2017 07.41 am

    Our bodies are so incredibly amazing. If it were possible, it would be fascinating to be able to compare data about this from different time periods or cultures.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe & Follow

Featured On