How do synergistic synbiotics support the establishment of the infant microbiome for health throughout life?

By:  Talking Nutrition Editors



  • HMO pioneer dsm-firmenich and Lallemand Health Solutions, a leader in probiotics, have announced a groundbreaking partnership to launch synergistic synbiotic solutions for early life nutrition.
  • In combination, HMOs and probiotics unlock unique benefits greater than the sum of their parts to establish the gut microbiome and support infant health and development outcomes. 
  • By creating synergistic synbiotic solutions that help to bring the composition and functionality of infant formula closer to that of breastmilk – the gold standard for early life nutrition – we aim to help narrow the health outcomes between breastfed and non-breastfed infants. 

The first three years of life are a critical window for infant microbiome development and lay the foundation for lifelong health, with natural delivery and breastfeeding largely responsible for infant exposure to beneficial bacteria. However, factors such as C-section delivery and/or a lack of breastfeeding can also contribute to different microbiota colonization patterns. As a result, there is significant demand for solutions that can bring the composition and functionality of infant formula closer to that of breast milk – the gold standard for infant nutrition – to help narrow the gap in health outcomes between breastfed and non-breastfed infants where breastfeeding is not possible.

It’s here that synergistic synbiotics are emerging as a new solution to support development of the infant microbiome during the critical early life period and provide a foundation for lifelong health. Read on to learn more about how synergistic synbiotics support infant health, as well as further details on our collaboration with Lallemand Health Solutions to bring new synergistic synbiotic solutions to the early life nutrition market.

What are synergistic synbiotics?

The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAAP), defines synergistic synbiotics as "a synbiotic in which the substrate is designed to be selectively utilized by the co-administered microorganism(s)”1 where components work together to bring about resulting health benefits.

The combination of HMOs and probiotics gives rise to innovative synergistic synbiotic solutions that amplify the beneficial effects of each individual component. Our new synergistic synbiotic solutions for infant health utilize dsm-firmenich’s GlyCare™ human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) as a substrate, with Lallemand's Expert'Biotic probiotic baby strains (clinically documented for safety and efficacy on more than 1,600 infants) acting as the co-administered microorganisms. Working together, these ingredients provide benefits greater than the sum of their parts – supporting infant health and development in the areas of immune health, gut health and cognition through the establishment of a healthy gut microbiome.

Discover more about synergistic synbiotics in our latest video:


The role of HMOs and probiotics in synergistic synbiotic solutions

HMOs are the third largest solid component of human milk,2 and play a crucial role in establishing the infant gut microbiota. These complex carbohydrates are well-known for their anti-microbial and anti-adhesive properties, which contribute to their ability to combat pathogens.3,4 HMOs also serve as prebiotic agents, fostering the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, like bifidobacteria, in the infant gut.5,6 The presence of these beneficial microbes helps to establish a robust gut microbiome, which plays a crucial role in protecting the infant from harmful microorganisms and supports immune system development.7 Furthermore, recent research indicates that HMOs may have additional benefits in early life development, including supporting brain development and cognitive function.8,9,10

Probiotics are live microorganisms that can provide health benefits to hosts when consumed in sufficient quantities.11 Species of probiotics like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus are known to contribute to the development of a healthy infant gut microbiome,12 supporting the growth and maturation of the infant's digestive system and immune function.13 Supporting the development of healthy microbiota and immune system while a child is formula fed can help protect against potentially harmful microbiomes and cultivate lifelong health.

How synergistic synbiotics provide unique benefits for infant health and development

The first 1,000 days of an infant’s life are critical for infant microbiome colonization and development, providing the foundation for a lifelong health and wellbeing.14 The most important changes occur in the first year, following birth canal exposure (or deprivation due to C-section delivery) and breastfeeding status. As the infant progresses from milks to solid foods, the microbiome goes through another important adaptation process to diversify and support the developing immune system, brain and overall wellbeing. Suboptimal microbiome colonization during this period can increase susceptibility to health issues later in life.

Preclinical research outcomes indicate synergistic synbiotics provide health benefits across multiple areas essential for infant growth and development. One of these is by bringing the infant microbiome closer to that of breast-fed infants,15  thereby establishing a foundation for optimal development trajectories.14 A well-balanced microbiome composition and development in infancy is linked to various health benefits which persist throughout life, including improved gut barrier function to defend against opportunistic microorganisms,16 healthy immune system development17 and normal functioning of the gut-brain axis, positively influencing the developing brain’s health.18 Synergistic synbiotics may also play an important role in cognitive development, with evidence in breastfed infants suggesting that beneficial bacteria strains like Bifidobacterium and Bacteroides in combination with human milk oligosaccharides are associated with improved gut and brain health outcomes.19

Partner with dsm-firmenich to give infants the best start in life  

Join us in our mission to revolutionize early life nutrition through the development of advanced synbiotic solutions. Together, we can help make cutting-edge nutritional products that promote healthy growth and development accessible to infants everywhere. 

To learn more about how we’re pushing the frontiers of early life nutrition with science-backed synbiotic innovations, click here:

Published on

01 May 2024


5 min read

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1 The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) defines a synergistic synbiotic as the combination of a probiotic and a specifically crafted substrate that is intended to be selectively utilized by the probiotic. (Swanson, K. S. et al. Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on the definition and scope of synbiotics. Nat. Rev. Gastroenterol. Hepatol. 17, 687–701 (2020)).

2 Bode L. Human milk oligosaccharides: every baby needs a sugar mama. Glycobiology. 2012;22(9):1147-1162.

3 Duska-McEwen G, Senft AP, Ruetschilling TL, Barrett EG, Buck R. Human milk oligosaccharides enhance innate immunity to respiratory syncytial virus and influenza in vitro. Food and Nutrition Sciences. 2014;5:1387-1398.

4 Al-Khafaji AH, Jepsen SD, Christensen KR, Vigsnæs LK. The potential of human milk oligosaccharides to impact the microbiota-gut-brain axis through modulation of the gut microbiota. Journal of Functional Foods. 2020;74:104176. 

5 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.

6 Walsh, C., Lane, J.A., van Sinderen, D. et al. Human milk oligosaccharide-sharing by a consortium of infant derived Bifidobacterium species. Sci Rep. 2022;12:4143.

7 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.

8 Berger PK, Plows JF, Jones RB, et al. Human milk oligosaccharide 2’-fucosyllactose links feedings at 1 month to cognitive development at 24 months in infants of normal and overweight mothers. PLoS One. 2020b;15(2).

9 Tarr AJ, Galley JD, Fisher SE, Chichlowski M, Berg BM, Bailey MT. The prebiotics 3’Sialyllactose and 6’Sialyllactose diminish stressor-induced anxiety-like behavior and colonic microbiota alterations: Evidence for effects on the gut-brain axis. Brain Behav Immun. 2015;50:166-177.

10 Al-Khafaji AH, Jepsen SD, Christensen KR, Vigsnæs LK. The potential of human milk oligosaccharides to impact the microbiota-gut-brain axis through modulation of the gut microbiota. Journal of Functional Foods. 2020;74:104176.

11 Swanson KS, Gibson GR, Hutkins R, et al. The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on the definition and scope of synbiotics. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2020;17(11):687-701. doi:10.1038/s41575-020-0344-2

12 Chen J, Cai W, Feng Y. Development of intestinal bifidobacteria and lactobacilli in breast-fed neonates. Clin Nutr. 2007;26(5):559-566. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2007.03.003

13 Myung Wook Song, Kee-Tae Kim & Hyun-Dong Paik (2023) Probiotics as a Functional Health Supplement in Infant Formulas for the Improvement of Intestinal Microflora and Immunity, Food Reviews International, 39:2, 858-874, DOI: 10.1080/87559129.2021.1928178

14 Robertson RC, Manges AR, Finlay BB, Prendergast, AJ. The Human Microbiome and Child Growth - First 1000 Days and Beyond. Trends Microbiol. 2019;27(2):131-147. doi:10.1016/j.tim.2018.09.008

15 Alliet P, Vandenplas Y, Roggero P, Jespers SNJ, Peeters S, Stalens JP, Kortman GAM, Amico M, Berger B, Sprenger N, Cercamondi CI, Corsello G. Safety and efficacy of a probiotic-containing infant formula supplemented with 2’-fucosyllacotse: a double-blind randomized controlled trial. Nutrition Journal. 2022;21:11.

16 Yao, Yao, et al. “The Role of Microbiota in Infant Health: From Early Life to Adulthood.” Frontiers in immunology vol. 12 708472. 7 Oct. 2021. 

17 Bäckhed, F. et al. Dynamics and Stabilization of the Human Gut Microbiome during the First Year of Life [published correction appears in Cell Host Microbe. 2015 Jun 10;17(6):852. Jun, Wang [corrected to Wang, Jun]] [published correction appears in Cell Host Microbe. 2015 Jun 10;17(6):852]. Cell Host Microbe. 2015;17(5):690-703.

18 H. Lv, L.Z., Zhang, et al. Comparative analysis of microbiotas in breast milk and infant stools and screening of functional strains, 2022.

19 Cho S, Samuel TM, Li T, et al. Interactions between Bifidobacterium and Bacteroides and human milk oligosaccharides and their associations with infant cognition. Front Nutr. 2023;10:1216327. Published 2023 Jun 29. doi:10.3389/fnut.2023.1216327