Annales 74.3 - Human Milk: Lessons from Recent Research

F. Haschke

Human milk is the best source of nutrients both for low-birth-weight (LBW) infants and healthy term infants. For LBW infants, the availability of human milk often is a problem, in particular during longer periods of hospitalization immediately after birth. Breastfed term infants in particular those in developing countries experience fewer and shorter infection periods. When compared to formula-fed infants, term infants fed human milk have different gut microflora, exhibit different growth patterns, and even face a lower long-term risk of chronic diseases, such as obesity, types 1 and 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

During recent years, it has become clear that human milk provides both optimal nutrient supply and functional ingredients, such as proteins, lipids, and oligosaccharides, which can contribute to short- and long-term health outcomes. Although the composition of infant formulas has evolved with increasing knowledge of human milk, differences in outcomes between breastfed and formula-fed infants are still observed. Efforts to improve the composition of infant formulas are complicated because human milk and its key components change continuously over time. Consequently, narrowing the gap between human milk and infant formula requires a deep understanding of how the quantity and quality of key nutrients change over time.