The decision of what to feed a newborn can be fraught with anxiety — is breast milk the only way to go? If I choose formula am I somehow cheating my baby?
Well, there are literally millions of healthy Americans who were raised on formula — imperfect as these older versions may have been. And formula manufacturers are constantly updating their products, trying to make them more and more like the gold standard — human breast milk. The latest advance is the addition of a new ingredient class — certain complex carbohydrates called oligosaccharides.
Various members of this class of carbohydrates are known to be present in human milk, and different women produce different types. They are important in the development of the baby's immune system and help determine the type of bacteria residing in the developing gastrointestinal tract. And some of them can help baby defend against pathogenic bacteria, such as Group B streptococcus.
Now one type — fucosylated human milk oligosaccharides — is being developed as an additive for infant formulas. The plan is to introduce thus-supplemented formula to the market in 2017. While it is not known exactly what impact it will have on an infant's development, the idea that this additive will bring formula closer to mother's milk is likely to be a benefit. And, perhaps another benefit to formulas getting better and better is a decrease in parents' anxiety.
Thus, women who can't or choose not to breast feed can feel even more comfortable by using a modern infant formula for their babies.