The New York Times reported on a study by PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) describes how human milk sugars protect and coat the newborn’s digestive tract. It is really fascinating. Human milk has numerous kinds of oligosaccharides. The oligosaccharides in milk are lactose-based complex sugars. Each sugar molecule has between three and ten sugars attached together.
The news is that, this complex of sugars changes during lactation. In early lactation, many of these oligosaccharides are not digestible to the infant. Instead, scientists believe they evolved in milk to attract the strain of bifidobacteria which is the most helpful to the infant’s gut. They have specially named it: bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis. This bacteria has evolved with us to protect babies’ guts!
This bacteria is part of the infant’s early immune system. They are mapping the genome of this special bacteria now. As you can guess, it is not available in formula.