Proper nutrition can support moms during pregnancy, as well as help babies and children grow and develop strong starts in life.
How HMOs Can Support Infant Cognition
Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are unique prebiotics found naturally in breast milk that feed the good bacteria in the gut where approximately 70% of the immune system exists. While there are hundreds of different HMOs available in breast milk, the most abundant and well-researched among them is 2'-Fucosyllactose (2'-FL). New findings from Abbott published in the Journal of Nutrition & Food Science suggests that HMOs may help support cognition and motor development in infants. The study found that 2'-FL and 6-sialyllactose (6'-SL) HMOs together may be helpful in brain development. For the study, researchers collected a total of 82 human milk samples from women at one month postpartum to determine the impact of mothers’ weight and medical risk factors on breast milk composition. The women were asked to record weight and other variables, including gestational diabetes and smoking habits. The results of the research showed that higher levels of 6'-SL HMO in breast milk was linked to higher cognitive and motor skills scores in breastfed infants at 18 months, regardless of the mothers’ weight, diabetic status or other variables. And, greater levels of both 2'-FL and 6'-SL HMOs together were associated with higher motor skills scores at 6 and 18 months of age. Gross and fine motor skills are essential aspects of a child’s overall development. They allow a child to explore his or her environment, play with objects, demonstrate affection by reaching and holding, and demonstrate independence through mobility. This research suggests HMOs may also be important in supporting brain development in babies.
The Role of HMOs in Reducing NEC
Welcoming a new baby into the world should be an exciting time if you're an expecting parent. But when your child is born premature, it's normal to worry about the possible health challenges and complications they may face. Necrotizing enterocolitis, also known as NEC, is a rare condition that premature babies may develop during their first weeks of life. Though NEC can be managed, its effect on a child's health can be serious. NEC prevention may also be possible, according to new preliminary studies. Emerging preclinical research from Johns Hopkins and Abbott suggests that when premature babies are fed breast milk, the presence of human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) in the milk may help reduce their chances of developing NEC. We sat down with Rachael Buck, Ph.D., a research fellow at Abbott Nutrition, to discuss necrotizing enterocolitis and the promising research surrounding it. What Is Necrotizing Enterocolitis? NEC is a disease that can affect newborns by causing inflammation in their intestines. With NEC, bacteria inside the intestinal tract can leak into the intestinal wall. Babies with NEC require a period of gut rest, which means they are temporarily nourished by intravenous nutrition. NEC may be fatal, depending upon how severely NEC affects the newborn, Buck explains. The specific cause of NEC is unknown, but it's most often seen in very low birth weight premature babies. In the United States, about 10% of babies who are born prematurely develop NEC. "While there are available NEC treatments, preventive strategies to aid infants at high risk for the disease are needed," says Buck. One prevention strategy that's already showing promise involves the use of HMOs. In new preclinical research from Johns Hopkins and Abbott, HMOs were shown to effectively prevent instances of necrotizing enterocolitis in animal models. What Are Human Milk Oligosaccharides?
The Surprising Link Between Gut Bacteria and Food Allergies in Children
Today, one in 13 children has a food allergy. According to the Food Allergy Research & Education organization that studies food allergies and their impact on Americans, that's roughly two children in every classroom. When your son or daughter has dietary limitations such as these, it's natural to worry about them coming in contact to foods at school and other places that could make them ill. But what if food allergies could be prevented in the first place? According to preclinical research, this may be possible one day — perhaps even in our lifetime. The key lies in the makeup of a child's gut bacteria.
Your Child's Growth and Development: Is Picky Eating Getting in the Way?
As a parent, it's natural to be concerned about your child's growth and development. But lately, many parents have had another pressing issue on their minds. According to a recent International Food Information Council (IFIC) report on children's nutrition, immune health is parents' second-largest nutritional concern, right behind growth and development. This is likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related shifts in social behaviors.
Decoding Your Child's Growth Chart
Pediatricians have several different tools they can use to measure your child's health. One of the most powerful among them is the growth chart. Sometimes, it can be difficult to make sense of all those lines and numbers — if you've felt this before, you're not alone. Here's some valuable insight into how to decode and better understand your child's chart. A Window Into Your Child's Health The growth chart might seem like just another piece of paper, but it's packed with several important insights. On the surface, it can look like these charts are simply about height and weight; however, growth is an indicator of many aspects of your child's health and well-being, such as cognitive development, immunity and nutrition status. One Size Doesn't Fit All The growth chart uses a set of measurements, called percentiles, to compare your child's weight, height and head size (in the case of infants) to those of other children of the same age and sex. The higher the percentile, the larger a child is compared to their peers. Conversely, the lower the percentile, the smaller the child. For example, if your child is in the 75th percentile for height, that means they are taller than 75% of kids their age. Kids of average height for their age based on WHO Child growth standards would measure in the 50th percentile. It's natural to assume bigger is better, but that's not necessarily the case. Many factors influence a child's size, including genetics, diet, and even their environment. Instead of focusing on a specific goal, pediatricians are far more interested in each child's individual growth trend. For instance, a child who has consistently been in the 30th percentile for height or weight might be experiencing perfectly healthy growth; however, if that number were to suddenly drop to the 15th percentile or below, further investigation might make sense. Adding Up the Numbers Because children experience different rates of growth according to their age, there are two basic types of growth charts. The first is designed for newborns and babies up to age 2, while the other is for kids and young adults between the ages of 2 and 20. At every wellness visit, your pediatrician will measure your child's height and weight to keep close tabs on their growth trend. Then, they'll plot these figures on the chart. You don't have to wait until your child's next appointment to learn the results. You can download the same charts they use and plot the results yourself.