Formula is moving closer to mimicking breastmilk, according to scientists.
Researchers have spent decades studying the complex makeup of breastmilk in hopes of one day replicating the many benefits that it provides. A molecule dubbed "Milk Fat Globule Membrane", or MFGM, has been identified as a way of moving formula one step closer to breastmilk.
Most commercial formulas do not contain MFGM but instead pull their lipids from vegetables sources. The fat source from vegetables has a very different constitution and does not provide all of the same beneficial effects that MFGM does. Through various methods of testing, researchers have found that MFGM can help restore intestinal growth, grow cell numbers, and improve protein patterns in infants.
Medical professionals agree that there is no perfect simulation of breastmilk thus far, but because not every mother can provide breastmilk for her baby, formula is necessary. Having an alternative that can do its best to mimic the advantages of human milk is what doctors are striving for.
Breastmilk provides almost perfect nutrition for a baby, creating a compound that is full of protein, vitamins, and fat. It is easily digestible and also contains numerous antibodies that help protect a newborn from disease and infection. Studies show that babies who breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of their lives have fewer incidences of ear infections, diarrhea, and hospitalizations.
While most can agree that breast is best, it is not possible for every infant. There are a variety of reasons that every mother cannot breastfeed her child including a low milk supply, medical treatments, adoptions, medications, drug use, disease, and more. In these situations, researchers hope to provide an alternative that can best serve both mother and child.
For some women, their experience with formula has been nothing but positive. Mother Kristina Wright discusses on her blog her personal experience with formula feeding. Suffering from postpartum depression, she was alone as her spouse was on deployment. Wright struggled with getting her newborn enough milk. Switching to formula was a game-changer.
She writes, "When my second son was born, I didn't even attempt to breastfeed. I knew what worked for me and I went back to it. I formula fed my second son from day one. And you know what? Those early weeks and months were so much more peaceful for me—and for my baby".
For many women, including Wright, it is the guilt of formula feeding your baby that weighs heavily on a new mother.
For new mothers who struggle and breastfeeding is not viable, adding an ingredient like MFGM to formula is improving their child's health through their first year of life. Researchers hope that continued studies can only help push the development of formula even closer to the likeness of breastmilk.