To understand the origins of the infant gut microbial community, we have used a published metagenomic dataset of the faecal microbiome of mothers and their related infants at early (4, 7 and 21 days) and late times (6–15 months) following birth. Using strain-tracking analysis, individual-specific patterns of microbial strain sharing were found between mothers and infants following vaginal birth. Overall, three mother–infant pairs showed only related strains, while 12 infants of mother–infant pairs contained a mosaic of maternal-related and unrelated microbes. Analysis of a second dataset from nine women taken at different times of pregnancy revealed individual-specific faecal microbial strain variation that occurred in seven women. To model transmission in the absence of environmental microbes, we analysed the microbial strain transmission to F1 progenies of human faecal transplanted gnotobiotic mice bred with gnotobiotic males. Strain-tracking analysis of five different dams and their F1 progeny revealed both related and unrelated microbial strains in the mother's faeces. The results of our analysis demonstrate that multiple strains of maternal microbes, some that are not abundant in the maternal faecal community, can be transmitted during birth to establish a diverse infant gut microbial community.