How to protect your baby from recurrent infections?
Objective: To inform mothers on how HMO helps prevent infection
Did you know! Children in the first 2 years get anywhere between 8 to 10 episodes of common cold or upper respiratory infections in a year?1 For babies, starting breastfeeding within an hour of birth is a first vaccination of sorts. The colostrum or the first golden milk is a great source of nutrition and immune factors for the baby.2 A unique fibre present in breast milk is emerging as a hero in terms of immunity. It is called prebiotic human milk oligosaccharides or HMOs.
The protection offered by breastfeeding
Studies have found babies that were breastfed seem to be having lower chances of diarrhoea, urine infection, lung, ear and gut infections. Only by the 19th century, researchers identified a non-digestible carbohydrate called Prebiotic HMOs that was found to be one among the many immune-building component in breast milk. 4 Prebiotic HMOs are the third most plentiful component overall, after milk sugar and milk fat, in breast milk. Only breast milk has prebiotics HMOs, cow milk has none of it.3
Breast milk has shown to protect against many infections. A non-digestible carbohydrate called Prebiotic HMOs has shown to provide immune protection.
How do Prebiotic HMOs protect against recurrent infection in children?
There are more than 1000 different HMOs in breast milk, the most common and abundant one is 2’-FL or 2-Fucosyllactose.4 Every mother secretes a different set of prebiotic HMOs depending on factors like genetics, mother’s weight, age, diet, mode of delivery among others.5
How does prebiotic HMOs, like 2-FL protect your baby from recurrent infections in the following ways:
- Only the good bacteria can ferment 2’-FL. This also means bad bacteria has no food to grow. This automatically means lesser infections in your baby.2, 6
- Prebiotic 2’-FL looks like a part of your baby’s tummy. The bad bacteria ‘sticks’ or ‘binds’ to them and gets excreted in poop. Again this means your baby is protected from repeated infections.2, 7
- Not only favouring, 2’-FL also trains your baby’s immune system to fight against bad bacteria while allowing the good ones to grow.2, 7
Take home message for parents
If you, as a parent, are worried about your baby falling sick repeatedly, the best would be to consult your paediatrician and decide on the best nutrition for your child. As a rule, breastfeeding is the best as it provides your baby naturally with vitamins, minerals and even 2’-FL. After all, a healthy baby is a happy baby.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Children and Colds. Available from: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/ear-nose-throat/Pages/Children-and-Colds.aspx Accessed on: 31 October 2022
- WHO. The global health observatory. Available from: https://www.who.int/data/gho/indicator-metadata-registry/imr-details/337#:~:text=Rationale%3A,on%20duration%20of%20exclusive%20breastfeeding. Accessed on: 20th November 2022.
- Hegar B, Wibowo Y, Basrowi RW, et al. The Role of Two Human Milk Oligosaccharides, 2'-Fucosyllactose and Lacto-N-Neotetraose, in Infant Nutrition. Pediatr Gastroenterol Hepatol Nutr. 2019;22(4):330-340.
- Reverri EJ, Devitt AA, Kajzer JA, et al. Review of the Clinical Experiences of Feeding Infants Formula Containing the Human Milk Oligosaccharide 2'-Fucosyllactose. Nutrients. 2018;10(10):1346.
- Han SM, Derraik JGB, Binia A, Sprenger N, Vickers MH, Cutfield WS. Maternal and Infant Factors Influencing Human Milk Oligosaccharide Composition: Beyond Maternal Genetics. J Nutr. 2021 Jun 1;151(6):1383-1393. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxab028. PMID: 33768224.
- Walsh C, Lane JA, van Sinderen D, Hickey RM. Human milk oligosaccharides: Shaping the infant gut microbiota and supporting health. J Funct Foods. 2020 Sep;72:104074. doi: 10.1016/j.jff.2020.104074. Epub 2020 Jul 3. PMID: 32834834; PMCID: PMC7332462.