The Role of HMOs in Infant Health and Development

Breast milk is the gold standard in infant nutrition

Human milk is the undisputed gold standard in infant nutrition, providing ideal nourishment to support an infant during the early stages of life.1-3 It promotes healthy growth and development and provides many distinct bioactive compounds that help to support the developing immune system and contribute to a beneficial community of microbes in the gut.

HMOs and their influence on infant health

Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs) are a group of non-digestible carbohydrates and the most abundant bioactive molecules in human milk. More than 200 HMOs have been identified to date. The distinctive structure, concentration and variety of oligosaccharides in human milk sets them apart from those found in the milk of other species. The discovery of their high levels in breastmilk has generated a pursuit around understanding their contributions to infant and human health.  As the third largest solid component of human milk after lipids and lactose, the prevalence of HMOs in breastmilk suggests this bioactive component likely plays a significant role in infant development and overall heath. HMOs are thought to positively influence infant health through a variety of mechanisms, including supporting a healthy gut microbiome, contributing to immune system function, reducing the risk of infection and positively impacting gut barrier function.

ESPGHAN Symposium 2022 - Building a Foundation for Infants' Health with HMO Innovations

Here at DSM, we believe in offering science backed solutions to help babies around the world to lead a brighter life. Thanks to new advances in science, the emerging health benefits of HMOs can be leveraged to support infants throughout the first thousand days. Watch our symposium from ESPGHAN 2022 to learn how our HMOs can play a role in healthy infant growth and development.

Whitepaper: HMOs – Inspired by Nature, Supported by Science

The emerging science behind HMOs suggests potentially wide-ranging health benefits in and beyond infancy. Download our whitepaper to discover the key mechanisms of action and latest insights on how HMOs may positively impact infant health.

Do you conduct research on HMOs? Participate in the HMO Donation Program.

The HMO donation program was established in 2010 to expand the knowledge and support the research in HMOs. All healthcare professionals, researchers and academics interested in the field of Human Milk Oligosaccharide research can apply for HMO donation.

To date, DSM has supported over 100 research projects through the donation program. These projects span 55 different research centers all around the globe. The donation program accesses DSM’s HMO library, which contains nearly 20 different HMO structures and mixtures.


  1. Bode L. Human milk oligosaccharides: every baby needs a sugar mama. Glycobiology. 2012;22(9):1147-1162.
  2. Francesca Turroni, Christian Milani, Marco Ventura, Douwe van Sinderen. The human gut microbiota during the initial stages of life: insights from bifidobacteria, Current Opinion in Biotechnology. 2022; 73:81-87.
  3. Gensollen T, Iyer SS, Kasper DL, Blumberg RS. How colonization by microbiota in early life shapes the immune system. Science. 2016;352(6285):539-544.

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