“Leaky gut”, or high intestinal barrier permeability, is common in preterm newborns. The role of microbiota in this process remains largely uncharacterized. We employed both short- and long-read sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene and metagenomes to characterize the intestinal microbiome of a longitudinal cohort of 113 preterm infants born between 240/7-326/7 weeks of gestation. Enabled by enhanced taxonomic resolution, we found significantly increased abundance of Bifidobacterium breve and a diet rich in mother’s breastmilk to be associated with intestinal barrier maturation during the first week of life. We combined these factors using genome-resolved metagenomics and identified a highly specialized genetic capability of the Bifidobacterium strains to assimilate human milk oligosaccharides and host-derived glycoproteins. Our study revealed mechanistic roles of breastmilk feeding and intestinal microbial colonization in postnatal intestinal barrier maturation; these observations are critical towards advancing therapeutics to prevent and treat hyperpermeable gut-associated conditions, including necrotizing enterocolitis.