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.

Human Milk Oligosaccharides:
a key component of human milk

Recently, more evidence has become available on the effect that HMOs in combination can have on infant growth, health, and development. 

The latest clinical data suggests that infant formulas supplemented with 5 HMOs can help support a healthier and stronger immune system through the gut. Read more in our latest download.

Watch our videos on how HMOs support infant health

Harnessing the Power of HMOs in Early Life Nutrition with dsm-firmenich

Watch our latest webinar with dsm-firmenich experts and discover strategies to tap into the emerging science around HMOs, leverage the global trends insights shaping the future of ELN innovation and hear the latest updates on HMO regulatory approvals across EMEA.

Building a Foundation for Infants' Health with HMO Innovations

Watch our Q&A panel discussion that we hosted at ESPGHAN 2023, with expert insights from Dr. Lars Bode, Director of the Human Milk Institute at the University of California, and Niels Banke, Chief Scientific Officer for HMOs at dsm-firmenich.

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-firmenich 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-firmenich’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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