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Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor

Formula Is Getting Closer to Breast Milk Than Ever

An ingredient called milk fat globule membrane might be the biggest innovation since DHA.
PUBLISHED ON 06/04/2018

Every formula feeding mom feels the pressure to breastfeed. And every formula feeding mom has probably had to defend her decision at least once. The fact of the matter is that while breast milk is best for baby’s development, breastfeeding isn’t always possible. That’s why a new formula ingredient that mirrors breast milk composition is a pretty big deal.

We’re talking about milk fat globule membrane, or MFGM. This substance, made of over 100 different proteins and fats, occurs naturally in breast milk and surrounds its fat droplets. And it serves a really important purpose, boosting both immune and brain health.

If you’ve already started looking into infant formulas, you’ve probably seen that most of them are fortified with DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid occurring in breast milk that also supports brain health. MFGM, which adds proteins into the equation, works in tandem with DHA to further boost brain development. Researchers have been working hard to see if they could create a version of MFGM to put in formula. So far, Enfamil Neuropro, in particular, has been successful.

“We found that MFGM is present in mammal milk,” says physician-scientist and neonatologist Christina J. Valentine, MD, MS, RD, FAAP, who serves as the medical director for Reckitt Benckiser/Mead Johnson Nutrition. She tells The Bump Mead Johnson teamed up with dairy science professionals to learn how to extract MFGM from cow’s milk and put it into infant formula. But getting a dosage that matched levels of MFGM in breast milk was key.

“MFGM is similar to fat composition in mom’s milk; it’s about 5 grams per deciliter,” Valentine says. “Investigators have finally finished studies that show at this dose, MFGM in formula allows for safe developmental outcomes that are actually equal to a breastfeeding reference group, and that’s never been shown before.”

Valentine says that previously, using the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, studies showed formula-fed had a four-point gap in cognition compared to breastfed babies. But when that formula is fortified with MFGM, there’s was no gap in cognition.

So what type of baby is Enfamil Neuropro intended for? Rather than suggest that it’s best for colicky babies, constipated babies or preemies, Valentine says it’s best when “mother’s milk is not available.” Still, she urges parents to check with their pediatrician if baby is having reflux or a cow’s milk allergy.

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