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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

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.