During the first three years of life, the microbial ecosystem within the human gut undergoes a process that is unlike what happens in this ecosystem at any other time of our life. This period in time is considered a highly important developmental window, where the gut microbiota is much less resilient and much more responsive to external and environmental factors than seen in the adult gut. While advanced bioinformatics and clinical correlation studies have received extensive focus within studies of the human microbiome, basic microbial growth physiology has attracted much less attention, although it plays a pivotal role to understand the developing gut microbiota during early life. In this review, we will thus take a microbial ecology perspective on the analysis of factors that influence the temporal development of the infant gut microbiota. Such factors include sources of microbes that seed the intestinal environment, physico-chemical (abiotic) conditions influencing microbial growth, and the availability of nutrients needed by the intestinal microbes.