Studying the Microbiome

A few months back a colleague sent me information on a local study being done at MIT titled “Breast Fed Infant/Toddler Stool Sample Study”. She thought I would be interested in reading more about it and possibly participating. The criteria was:

  1. Being 18 years or older
  2. Having an infant/toddler 2-36 months
  3. Having an infant/toddler that was currently exclusively breastfeeding or exclusively breastfed prior to weaning
  4. Vaginal delivery of infant/toddler

I was intrigued and, luckily, was able to check all four boxes.  I was called back after the initial online screening and my daughter and I went to the research center for some pre-screening lab work.  We both had blood drawn, a vaginal swab from me, a stool sample from her, and a 20-page questionnaire on illnesses, medications taken and lifestyle.  A few days later, another call back. On to the study we went!

When we arrived at MIT for the actual study, I learned that, “the purpose of this study is to collect fecal samples from infant donors to isolate and discover bacterial strains and other molecules for the development and commercialization of new therapies.”  The woman leading the study further explained, “It is important to collect stool from healthy infants delivered vaginally from healthy mothers and having received breast milk feedings only or advanced food, no formula.  When babies are born by vaginal delivery and breast milk fed, they are exposed to and colonized by good ‘bugs’ that exist in their mother’s vagina and breast milk.”

I understood and was excited to be able to be a part of this research and development.  I already knew how a mother’s microbiome could greatly affect the health of her unborn child and that the baby’s microbiome could be further altered by the delivery process and breastfeeding.  Microbiome assists the baby in maintaining a healthy immune system and may be helpful later in life with conditions such as asthma, obesity, allergies and some immune disorders (certain outcomes may be dose dependent.)  It was very important that the participants have breastmilk exclusivity to ensure consistency.  So, my little one was on the clock to poop.  The study started at 8:00 AM and by 9:20, we were filling out exit paperwork.  Another bonus of breastmilk: keeps the baby very (very!) regular.

About a month after our first MIT visit, I got another call from the medical research company asking if my two-year-old, who was also exclusively breastfed, wanted to participate and they would also like mom in the study as well.  I was happy to help, partially because I am so interested in the work they are doing and because, as a mom, I am proud to be able to say that I exclusively breastfed my 3 daughters.

In a casual conversation with the clinical research leader, I learned that they are essentially trying to harvest the good “bugs” from the poop and use those to grow more, eventually using it to create products to help/cure atopic diseases.  Amazing!

Breastfeeding is not a small undertaking, and sometimes it’s easy to forget why I do it—especially at 2 AM!  But I know the strength of my commitment and all the benefits, not only for myself, but for my girls.  Hopefully, it puts them on the right track for a lifetime of good health and habits.  Of course, the importance of breastmilk is something that I go into great detail in my CLE® trainings and almost daily with clients.  It’s so special to relay this information because it’s so near and dear to my heart, even now, oldest is 11 and baby is almost a year, and has 4 teeth.


  • Fecal Stool Collection Study in Infants COM2017-001
    Commense, Inc.

Jodi Congdon

CPD, CLE®, CAPPA Faculty

Jodi is the founder and owner of Hip to Heart.  Giving birth was a life changing experience for her and was ultimately what made Jodi decide to get involved in pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding as a career.  She feels compelled to educate women on the options and choices they have for their births to try and make each and every experience the very best it can be.  She knows how important the postpartum time is and her priority is to support new moms to the fullest capacity.

Jodi is a trained Labor Doula and Childbirth Educator as well as a certified Lactation Educator™ and Postpartum Doula.  She is also a member of the CAPPA Faculty as a Postpartum Doula and Lactation Educator™ Trainer for New England.  In addition, Jodi is also a Certified Health and Wellness Coach specializing in prenatal and postpartum women.

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