A Breakthrough in Infant Formula: 2'-FL HMO

Pioneering Abbott research helps bring our baby formula closer than ever to breast milk.

When it comes to a new baby no detail gets overlooked – from the room paint, to the perfect crib, to the beautiful blankets and brand new coming-home outfits.

Parents of newborns: meticulously preparing for that special day while leaving absolutely nothing to chance.

That's especially true of what to feed your baby. Abbott shares a similar passion.

While mother's milk is always best, for many moms, breastfeeding is not always an option.

"Breastfeeding my babies is the best thing nutritionally but that doesn't always work out for me and my busy schedule," said Kaitlin O'Rourke of Columbus, Ohio.

A Breakthrough in Infant Formula: 2'-FL HMO

ABCs of HMOs

2'-FL HMO, or 2'-fucosyllactose (few-co-syl-lactose) human milk oligosaccharide (ol-i-goh-sak-uh-rahyd); is a prebiotic found naturally in breast milk.

About 80 percent of mothers make 2'-FL in their breast milk. Excluding water, HMOs are the third most abundant ingredient in breast milk after fat and carbohydrates.

What is an HMO's job?

Simply, they help the good bacteria do the good things you want in your baby's gut. 2'-FL HMO also travels through the bloodstream.

"We wanted to replicate HMOs so that babies who drink formula can benefit from them," Rachael Buck, Ph.D., associate research fellow and immunology expert at Abbott, said.

Similac Pro-Advance, Similac Pro-Sensitive and Similac Pro-Total Comfort all have 2'-FL HMO. The 2'-FL HMO in Abbott's formulas is bio-structurally identical to the 2’-FL HMO found in mother's milk and it is produced in a similar way to the way some vitamins are made.

HMO Animation

Enter Similac with 2'-FL HMO

For O’Rourke and mothers like her, Abbott’s breakthrough with 2'-FL HMO will allow parents who feed formula to give their babies an ingredient that was previously only available to breastfed babies.

A recent Journal of Nutrition study showed that babies fed Abbott's 2'-FL formula had levels of immune system markers that were nearly identical to breastfed babies.

"This latest research has led us to our biggest scientific breakthrough in infant formula in nearly a decade – the ability to nourish formula-fed babies with 2'-FL HMO," said Buck who is one of the study's authors.

"While it doesn't mean babies won't experience the normal illnesses that come with childhood, these data clearly show that formula with 2'-FL HMO can help strengthen babies' immune systems to be more like breastfed babies."

The addition of 2'-FL HMO brings Similac closer to breast milk than ever before.

Why It Matters

Hundreds of new moms and dads as well as their doctors have told us that a newborn's immunity tops their concerns.

While nothing can replace milk from a mother, making baby formulas available that perform more like that milk is a common desire for new parents and Abbott. By adding 2'-FL HMO to Similac, we have come closer to narrowing the gap.

"We tested a number of immune markers, and found that specific signals of immune responses were the same in the breastfed and 2'-FL-formula fed babies," said Edward Barrett, Ph.D., study author and director of Translational Research at Lovelace Biomedical, part of the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute.

Similac Pro-Advance and Similac Pro-Sensitive with 2'-FL HMO are available at major retailers in the U.S. and at the Abbott store.

This story was originally published on Jan. 17, 2019 and updated on July 27, 2021.