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Prebiotics and Probiotics in Formula

Gut health has become very popular, so it’s not surprising to see formula companies changing recipes to try and improve the gut microbiome. One way companies are achieving this is using prebiotics and probiotics in their formula.

The gut microbiome is a relatively new area of study and we don’t have an “ideal” gut bacteria profile yet. Companies are comparing the gut bacteria of breastfed babies to those of formula fed babies, with breastfed being the standard. By adding in prebiotics and probiotics commonly found in breastmilk, the goal is to create a similar microbiome in formula fed infants.

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Prebiotics are fibers that our body can’t digest, but the bacteria in our gut can. They act as food for our gut bacteria. The prebiotics in breastmilk are called human milk oligosaccharides, commonly referred to as HMOs. In formula, you will find most commonly galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS).

In addition to helping the gut bacteria, HMOs also play a role in immune development and function (1). Breastmilk is made up of a variety of HMOs, with each parent’s breastmilk being different and each parent’s breastmilk changing throughout their feeding journey.

At this stage in formula creation, we aren’t able to completely mimic the HMOs in breastmilk, but adding them does seem to change formula fed babies’ gut bacteria closer to that of breastfed babies’ (2).


Probiotics are live bacteria that we consume in hopes to populate our gut with “good” bacteria. Breastmilk has a lot of bacteria which is used to populate the gut (3). In addition to gut health, probiotics in breastmilk may help with eczema, may help with immune response, and may even help with colic (4, 5, 6).

The most common probiotics added to formula are bifidobacteria and lactobacillus. Due to the fact that they must be sterile, probiotics are not available in ready to feed formulas.

Prebiotics and Probiotics in US Formula

A2 PlatinumGOSNone
Aptamil First InfantGOS, 2’FL HMO, FOSNone
Aptamil CareGOS, FOSbifidobacterium breve
Bellamy’s Organic Infant FormulaGOSNone
Bubs Organic Grass Fed FormulaGOSbifidobacterium longum BB536
Bubs Supreme A2 Infant FormulaGOS, FOSbifidobacterium longum BB536
Bubs Goat Milk Infant FormulaGOSNone
Care A2+GOS, FOSNone
Enfamil ARGOSNone
Enfamil EnspireGOSNone
Enfamil GentleaseNoneNone
Enfamil Neuropro2’FL-HMO, GOSNone
Enfamil Neuropro SensitiveNoneNone
Enfamil NutramigenNonelactobacillus rhamnosus
Enfamil ProsobeeNoneNone
Enfamil RegulineGOSNone
Gerber Good Start Extensive HANonebifidobacterium lactis
Gerber Good Start Gentle2’FL-HMObifidobacterium lactis
Gerber Good Start GentlePro2’FL-HMObifidobacterium lactis
Gerber Good Start Gentle SoyNoneNone
Gerber Good Start SoothePro2’FL-HMOlactobacillus reuteri
Kendamil Classic First Infant MilkGOS, FOS, 3’GL HMONone
Kendamil Organic First Infant MilkGOS, 3′-GL HMONone
Kendamil Goat First Infant MilkGOS, 3′-GL HMONone
Nestle Nan Pro2’FL-HMOlactobacillus reuteri
Nestle NAN EXPERTpro SENSIPRO2’FL HMO, LNTlactobacillus reuteri
Nestle Nan SupremePro2’FL-HMO, LNTbifidobacterium lactis
Similac 360 Total Care Sensitive2′-FL HMO, LNT, 3-FL, 6′-SL, 3′-SLNone
Similac 360 Total Care Standard2′-FL HMO, LNT, 3-FL, 6′-SL, 3′-SLNone
Similac Advance/Pro-Advance2’FL HMO, FOSNone
Similac AlimentumNoneNone
Similac Pro Total Comfort2’FL HMO, FOSNone
Similac Sensitive2’FL HMO, FOSNone
Similac Soy IsomilFOSNone
Similac for Spit UpGOSNone
GOS = Galacto-oligosaccharides, FOS = Fructo-oligosaccharides, 3’GL HMO = galactosyllactose human milk oligosaccharides, 2’FL HMO = fucosullactose human milk oligosaccharides, LNT = Lacto-N-Tetraose, 3’FL = 3-Fucosyllactose, 6′-SL = 6′-Sialyllactose, 3’=SL = 3′-Sialyllactose


This is a relatively new area of research, but it does look promising. There are probiotic supplements available if the formula you are using does not have probiotics in it (always speak to your doctor before starting any supplement). Prebiotics and probiotics are only a couple of factors when choosing an infant formula. There are many other things to keep in mind. If you’re looking for more information on formula feeding, check out my book Formula Feeding Guide (affiliate link).

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