Baby Formula and Human Milk

Functional Ingredients in Baby Formula Compared to Human Milk

I. Introduction

(i) Background

Brest feeding is of great importance given the advantages that are derived from it by the child as well as the mother ( 2009;, 2009; Hein-Kreikenbaum, 1993). These attributes, therefore, make breast milk an important product that has to be present while feeding the baby. Problems that may lead to the absence of breast milk have prompted the introduction of baby milk formulas that seek to attain the perfection and quality of real breast milk.

(ii) Statement of the Problem

These formulae, however, do not contain all the nutrients present in breast milk, which makes them substandard substitutes for it (, 2009; GrowingKids, 2009; Hayley; Dec 19, 2008). Oligosaccharides are some of the bio-molecules present in human milk and their usefulness has only become clear with the improved research methods and equipment made available by technological advances (Osborn & Khan, 2000, pp. 14). The oligosaccharides stimulate bifidobacteria and lactobacilli growth in the intestines of the human body and are therefore important in the baby’s feed though they lack in baby formula due to the dynamism of the processes that make them (Journal of Tropical Pediatrics, 1997; Meer, & Boehm, Stellaard, Vriesema, 2008). Oligosaccharides are third largest component in human milk and their effect can only be mimicked in formula by the addition of other oligosaccharides other than those present in human milk (Vandenplas, 2002). Therefore, their absence in formulae makes it necessary to look for ways of including them in formulae.

(iii) Purpose and Importance of the Study

By studying oligosaccharides, the better application of formulas that contain the right amount of nutrients for babies can be applied for better health. In addition, alternatives that are more useful would be present for administration to babies. Therefore, knowledge about the usefulness of oligosaccharides and their functions as well as their quantitative and qualitative amounts in human milk would be useful towards this goal. This study will look into the research that has been done on oligosaccharides and determine whether at present it is possible to have baby formula that is an equal substitute for human milk and the closeness of the relationship between the two.

II. Literature Review

(i) Advantages of Breast Milk over Baby Formula: Oligosaccharides

Many benefits are present in breastfeeding with one of them being the presence of oligosaccharides in human milk (Miller, & McVeagh, 1999). Oligosaccharides have been established as some of the important molecules present in human milk that are of benefit to babies since they stimulate the growth of bifidogenic flora, which is seen as a positive effect. These oligosaccharides are the third largest component in human milk (Vandenplas, 2002). The amount of oligosaccharides differs between mothers and in the periods in which the mothers are lactating (Gibson & Roberfroid, 2008, pp. 394-395). They are about 130 in number which are formed by combinations of L-fucose, D-galactose, sailic acid, N-acetylglucosamine, and other components. The oligosaccharide types include; Lacto-N-novopentaose, Lacto-N-fucopentaose, and Lacto-N-dificohexaose (, 2009). It has been shown that all infectious diarrheas in infants are inversely proportional to the amount of oligosaccharides present in the milk they fed on (Morrow AL, Ruiz-Palacios GM, Altaye M, et al. 2005). Breast milk is perfectly balanced and the baby can regulate the amount taken therefore regulating body weight, which is not possible for baby formula (Nichols, 2008).

(ii) Baby Formula

Baby formula comes in three types; ready made, concentrated, and in powder form which have their advantages and disadvantages. The most popular types have goat milk, cow milk, or soy as their main ingredients. However, these ingredients can be fortified and a choice can be made among them to suit the baby’s needs (OBrien, 2006; Sears 2006). Despite this, a formula that is balanced enough has not been found yet and there are various associated health risks with the use of formulas (Nichols, 2008). To overcome these shortcomings, formulae have had oligosaccharides added to them to make them more useful (Vandenplas, 2002; Arslanoglu, Moro, and Boehm, 2007). Therefore, the establishment of the best type of oligosaccharides and their effect is of prime importance towards achieving a formula that can be used as a good enough alternative to breast milk.

III. Research Methods

(i) Data Sources, Collection, and Analysis

The data collection method used in this research will mostly depend on previous research that has been done on oligosaccharides in breast milk and its inclusion in baby formula. Therefore, a compilation and analysis of the findings of these researches will be used in establishing the viability of a formula that is as good or nearly as good as breast milk.

IV. Conclusion

            From a research on the functional ingredients in baby milk and baby formula, it would be established whether it is possible to make a formula that approaches the attributes of human milk. With the establishment of such a formula, there would be the added advantage of having it modified according to the needs of a particular infant.







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Arslanoglu, S. Moro, G. E., & Boehm, G. (2007). “Early Supplementation of Prebiotic Oligosaccharides Protects Formula-Fed Infants against Infections during the First 6 Months of Life”. American Society for Nutrition J. Nutr. 137:2420-2424, November 2007. Retrieved November 14, 2009 from (June 22, 2009). Oligosaccharides in Breast Milk. Retrieved November 14, 2009 from

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Meer, Hester van, & Gunther Boehm, Frans Stellaard, Aldwin Vriesema, (2008). Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol 294: G540-G547, 2008. First published December 13, 2007; doi:10.1152/ajpgi.00396.2007. Retrieved November 14, 2009 from

Miller, J. B. & McVeagh, P. (1999). “Human Milk Oligosaccharides: 130 reasons to breast-feed”. British Journal of Nutrition (1999), 82, 333–335

Morrow AL, Ruiz-Palacios GM, Altaye M, et al. (2005). “Human Milk Oligosaccharides Protect Infants from Enteric Infection”. GASTROENTEROLOGY AND NUTRITION. Pediatr. 2004; 145:297–303. American Academy of Pediatrics.

Nichols, Hayley (Dec 19, 2008). The Risks and Disadvantages of Formula Feeding: Facts about Breast milk Substitutes Used in Bottle-Feeding Infants. Retrieved November 14, 2009 from

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Osborn, H. M. I., & Khan, T. H. (2000). Oligosaccharides: their synthesis and biological roles Volume 3. London:  Oxford University Press. Pg. 14

Sears (2006). Bottle-feeding. Retrieved November 14, 2009 from

Vandenplas, Y. (2002). “Oligosaccharides in Infant Formula”. British journal of nutrition   ISSN 0007-1145   CODEN BJNUAV, INIST-CNRS, Cote INIST: 2404, 35400010163377.0230. Retrieved November 14, 2009 from


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