PREGNANCY & CHILDHOOD

Why Human Milk Oligosaccharides Are a Breakthrough

Human Milk Oligosaccharides and Nutrition | Abbott Nutrition

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How Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs) Support Immune Health for Infants

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JUN. 05, 2018 3 MIN. READ
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We all know about the benefits of breast milk and, as moms, of course we want to give our babies the very best. But, the reality is that not every mom can breastfeed, either exclusively or at all.

That's where the benefit of years of pioneering Abbott research comes in. Dedicated to helping mothers provide their babies with the best nutrition, Abbott researchers continuously analyze breast milk, the "gold standard" of infant nutrition, in an effort to unlock its potential for formula-fed babies around the world.

The Role of Human Milk Oligosaccharides

Research increasingly demonstrates that some of breast milk's value lies in the nutritional component human milk oligosaccharides,* also known as HMOs. They are the third most abundant ingredient in breast milk after fat and carbohydrates.

In breastfed babies, HMOs feed the good bacteria in a baby's gut where about 70 percent of the immune system resides.

"This may explain why babies who are breast fed often have stronger developing immune systems," explains Rachael Buck, Ph.D., an Abbott research scientist and expert in immune health. She notes that a baby's immune system develops rapidly early in life, and nutrition is critical to that development.

Human Milk Oligosaccharides Explained

What is 2'-FL?

Currently, more than 100 HMOs have been identified—and one HMO specifically, 2'-FL HMO, is a significant advancement in infant nutrition. 2'-FL is a unique immune-nourishing prebiotic and it's the most abundant HMO in most moms' breast milk. Up until recent years, the ingredient has only been available to babies fed breast milk, but a breakthrough study shows 2'-FL added to infant formula can help strengthen a formula-fed baby's immune system.

In the study, researchers followed more than 200 babies, comparing those who breastfed to those given formulas with or without a structurally identical version of 2'-FL. After six weeks, tests showed some of the immune markers found in breastfed and 2'-FL formula-fed babies were nearly identical.

"By harnessing 2'-FL HMO, we can help support a baby's immune system by closing multiple gaps in immune function between formula-fed and breastfed babies," Buck says. "We are excited to see what we can do with this important ingredient in the future and how it can help us set babies up for a lifetime of good nutrition and health."

*not from human milk

Understanding HMOs

Our Efforts to Address Infant Formula Supply

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Millions of parents rely on our formula to feed their babies. And we know that our recent recall caused additional stress and anxiety in an already challenging situation of a global supply shortage. We are working hard to help moms, dads and caregivers get the high-quality nutrition they need for their babies.

Formula Preparation: What You Need to Know

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While breast milk is the gold standard, some women prefer not to breastfeed or cannot rely solely on breast milk alone. For those who use formula, it is important to know the basics of formula preparation to keep your baby healthy. It’s simple, but important to carefully follow the label. Your baby's health depends on it. 

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SIMILAC PRO-ADVANCE®

Our closest formula to breast milk and complete nutrition for your baby's first year.

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