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The Evolution of Infant Formula: Brain-Building Protein for Baby’s Health

Deciding the best way to feed a new baby is a very personal choice for a parent. Whether choosing to breastfeed, formula-feed or supplement, every parent or caregiver’s priority is to ensure infants get the best nutrition possible during their first year of life – a critical time for brain development. Which is why the evolution of infant formula is so important.


For decades, scientists have studied human milk to understand its complexities, and more closely mirror its composition and functionalities for infant formula.


The outcome? The first infant formula in the U.S. to add Milk Fat Globule Membrane (MFGM) as an ingredient. This brain-building fat-protein blend is clinically shown to help close the gap in cognitive development between formula-fed and breastfed infants. It also offers brain-building benefits similar to breast milk, helping more babies reach critical milestones in the first year of life.


This launch marks the biggest breakthrough in the infant formula category since the introduction of DHA almost 20 years ago, and a major advancement in more closely mirroring the composition and functional outcomes of breast milk.

The Evolution of Infant Formula

I recently spoke with Physician-Scientist and Neonatologist Dr. Christina J. Valentine and Lucille Beseler. Lucille is the co-author of Nurturing with Nutrition: The Essential Guide for Feeding Infants and Toddlers. During our chat, they shared more on the evolution of infant formula, and what the latest developments mean for new and expecting moms.



Tell us what is MFGM and how is it different from DHA, and what makes it so effective?

Milk Fat Globule Membrane, or MFGM, is a natural source of over 100 proteins and fats that’s found in all mammal’s milk. DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid is a long chain of Omega-3 fatty acid that’s also found in mothers’ milk but it’s really dietary dependent. And using human milk research across the globe at Mead Johnson Nutrition, we’ve been able to find out what that average composition is on both DHA and milk fat globule membrane so that with dairy capabilities, we’re able to put back into infant formula the dose that matters for cognitive outcomes, similar to a breastfeeding baby.


How is this new formula developed exactly?

Well, in parallel with dairy science colleagues, our human milk platform has been ongoing across the world, and it was really apparent that every drop of mom’s milk has this milk fat globule membrane with numerous proteins and fats important for brain and immune health. At the same time, dairy scientists have really genetically mapped and looked at this MFGM. Also, capabilities with technology and safely capturing this from dairy has been really state of the art most recently. Knowing those two things then, we’re able to combine the both and put this MFGM back in infant formula. Now, research around the world has been going on in infants, and that’s where it was shown that formula with this MFGM at this dose showed similar cognitive developmental outcomes as the breastfeeding cohort. And that has never been shown before.


What are some other breakthroughs do you anticipate in the years to come with the evolution of infant formula?

As new analytical technologies become available, as well as our understandings of human milk, you will see more and more qualitative and functional components being investigated. And with those families that don’t have breast milk available, be able to reassure them that we’re giving them the most components available in the infant formula.


Thank you so much for sharing that information. Now, Lucile, tell us how does MFGM help close the cognitive gap between formula fed and breastfed infants?

This is what’s very exciting. There were studies previously that looked at infant formula fed babies versus breastfed babies, and we always thought there was a four-point cognitive gap, with the addition of milk fat globule membrane we are finding that those brain buildings components, the protein in fat has diminished this cognitive gap so it’s very exciting and it does ensure parents or caregivers that their infants are getting the best nutrition possible.

The Evolution of Infant Formula

What else does breakthrough means for moms who need to make that choice between formula and breast milk?

I think that we know that even though breast milk is the gold standard, there is a need for infant formula that’s going to produce the best outcomes for our infants. So again, we’re talking about the optimal nutrition for infants in this first year of life, when they have the most brain building time. Their brain builds at a 175% growth. So that’s what it means to parents and caregivers.

Evolution of Infant Formula


Meet Our Guest

  • Evolution of Infant FormulaChristina J. Valentine, MD, MS, RD, FAAP is a Physician-Scientist focused on maternal/infant diet strategies to attenuate inflammation and improve outcomes. She is currently the medical director for Reckitt Benckiser/Mead Johnson Nutrition, North America where she is involved with Product Development and co-leads The Global Human Milk Research Platform. Dr. Valentine is also an active neonatologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and is an Associate Visiting Professor at the University of Cincinnati, where she is the Principal Investigator evaluating maternal docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplementation in early pregnancy to reduce early preterm birth, called The ADORE Trial – “Assessment of DHA on Reducing Early preterm birth.”


evolution of infant formula


  • Evolution of Infant FormulaLucille Beseler, MS, RDN, is currently president of the Family Nutrition Center of South Florida, which she established in 1991 as one of the first nutrition practices pioneering HMO coverage of nutrition services dedicated to pediatrics. She served as president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics from 2016-2017. Beseler is a graduate of Queens College – City University of New York and earned a master’s degree from New York University. She co-authored “Nurturing with Nutrition: The Essential Guide for Feeding Infants and Toddlers” in 2003 and has bylines in publications such as FierceHealthcare.

Evolution of Infant Formula

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