Breast Milk vs. Formula: How CPG Companies Can Utilize Digital Tools to Innovate New Options

CPG companies
CPG companies can determine ways in which infant formula can better mimic the beneficial nutrients and bioactive components found in breast milk.
Image Source: Flickr user acheron0

Pregnancy can be a nerve-wracking, but ultimately exciting time for expectant parents. Once the baby arrives, however, mothers must make an important decision: to breastfeed or not to breastfeed? For a variety of reasons, some women are unable to breastfeed, while others simply prefer to use infant formula milk.1 Regardless, many organizations caution that “Breast milk is best for your baby, and the benefits…extend well beyond basic nutrition.” Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that women exclusively breastfeed their infants for (at least) the first six months.2 Part of the emphasis on the use of breast milk for babies is its nutritional content such as the presence of triglycerides, palmitic and oleic acids, omega-3 fatty acids, various protein (i.e. albumin, lysozyme) and lactose among other macronutrients. More interestingly, studies have shown that the content of milk obtained from mothers who delivered preterm babies differed from those with normal gestation periods.3 In addition to nutrients, breast milk also has “bioactive components” or substances that can have a direct impact on health like antigen-specific B cells originally present in the mammary gland or milk fat globule (MFG) which helps to transport a diverse group of proteins and lipids into milk.

The Nutrition Wars: Breast Milk vs Formula

Though many women rely on formula to provide their infants with a balanced diet, there are still significant differences between formula and breast milk. Furthermore, these differences should be better understood by CPG companies. For example, one physician compares breast milk to formula and notes that whereas breast milk is rich in DHA fats, cholesterol and fat-digesting enzymes, formulas usually have none of these things. Additionally, the protein present in breast milk is easily digestible as opposed to formula, while formula also proves to be carbohydrate deficient.4

How then can CPG companies narrow the differences between breast milk and formula? Part of the issue relies on a careful characterization of breast milk in order to determine the components missing for formula. CPG companies interested in conducting research could then determine those components, while also uncovering any special needs for babies who might need special nutritional requirements. A parent whose child is born premature, for example, might be more interested in buying specially designed formulas that have higher than average amounts of protein.

Tools of the Trade

Determining how CPG companies can go about collecting some of the information described above is challenging; however, there are certain technological innovations that might make the search significantly easier. For example, CPG companies and their research and development offices often have access to electronic laboratory notebooks. These tools can assist researchers in acquiring data about the nutritional and bioactive substances of large cohorts of nursing mothers and compare them to infant formulas available on the market. By supplementing current formulas, CPG companies have an opportunity to create more tailored and thus helpful food items to support children’s growth. Electronic laboratory notebooks are also particularly powerful because they organize information in one location, thus decreasing the amount of time researchers and managers spend rummaging through old data that might be undecipherable.

Beyond electronic laboratory notebooks, those CPG companies that work with creating new formulas inspired by breast milk should also use chemical management systems in their programs. Infants (and people in general) are very sensitive to the chemicals and ingredients in their food products. As CPG companies determine and decide which additives to combine together to create “super infant formula,” it is especially important that they take care to use chemicals that have been carefully stored, are not expired and are sterile.

Not a Means to an End, but a Means to a Future

The effort CPG companies might place into developing various and novel infant formulas modeled after breast milk is well-placed and could inspire the production of other lines of specialty foods. One could imagine food items with anti-nausea agents for individuals who experience nausea or the addition of alternatively firming or softening agents for others with medical conditions. To consider which products might similarly serve your workplace needs, please contact us today.

  1. “Why You Might Be Unable to Breastfeed,” July 23, 2014, http://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-guide/why-you-might-not-be-able-to-breastfeed.aspx
  2. “How breastfeeding benefits you and your baby,” http://www.babycenter.com/0_how-breastfeeding-benefits-you-and-your-baby_8910.bc
  3. “Human Milk Composition: Nutrients and Bioactive Factors,” February 2013, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3586783/
  4. “Comparison of Human Milk and Formula,” http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-eating/breastfeeding/why-breast-is-best/comparison-human-milk-and-formula

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