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Microbial colonization of the infant occurs during a critical time window for immune and gastrointestinal development. Infant colonization sets the stage for the adult microbiome. This review is a broad survey of the factors affecting infant colonization and the downstream effects on gastrointestinal health and disease. Major topics affecting colonization include initial inoculation dependent on birth mode, the impact of breast-feeding, and inside-out modulation of the developing microbiome by the immune system. Major outcomes of colonization include the timing-dependent education of the neonatal immune system, which is interconnected with barrier function and metabolism. These all engage in further continuing cross-talk with the microbiome, genetics, and nutrition. This review also briefly examines mechanisms of disease resulting from disrupted colonization as well as nutritional and microbial therapies.