The R&D programmes of Danone Nutricia Early Life Nutrition seek to create new scientific insights in the nutritional requirements of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, infants and young children.
Babies go through an incredible period of growth and development during their first 1000 days, which sets the blueprint for their lifelong wellbeing. We believe that helping mums and babies around the world get the right nutrition during this critical period - from conception to two years old - is a crucial step towards improving global health.
Research from UNICEF and WHO indicates that the double burden of malnutrition - over- and under-nutrition - is a significant problem throughout the world. Through our focus on research, product development and education, we strive to innovate in the field of early life nutrition to ensure that we improve lifelong health for as many people as possible.
PREGNANCY: NUTRITION FROM MOTHER TO BABY
During pregnancy, the nutritional requirements of expectant mothers change; for instance, the levels of iron, folate and iodine required. These nutrients nourish the foetus while its organs develop and allow the mother to build up her body stores that are essential for optimal breastfeeding.
In Indonesia, our Nutriplanet study showed that six in ten women suffer from malnutrition and other studies show that 30% of cases of infant mortality are linked to poor prenatal diets. Sari Husada, a Danone Nutricia Early Life Nutrition subsidiary in Indonesia, has launched an educational campaign to increase awareness of the importance of good nutrition for pregnant women. Working with Indonesia's gynaecology association, the subsidiary developed SGM Bunda - a nutrient-fortified beverage available at an affordable price.
Here in the UK, our C&G baby club offers personalised support for mums. Pregnant women and mothers can access a unique set of services and information focused on early life nutrition - including a 24/7 careline, website and Facebook page. These services have been extended to healthcare professionals, particularly midwives, general practitioners and paediatricians.
BREASTFEEDING: BEST FOR MOTHER AND BABY
Danone Nutricia Early Life Nutrition supports the WHO’s public health recommendation in favour of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, and continued breastfeeding up to 2 years along with the gradual introduction of safe and suitable solid foods.
Breastfeeding mothers need an adapted diet during this period, to meet their high nutrient demand. Several decades of breast milk research have given us a wealth of knowledge about the composition and benefits of breast milk. Through new scientific insights, we now better understand how the diet of a breastfeeding mother influences her own health and the composition of her milk.
Where breastfeeding is not an option, infant formula is the only suitable alternative and should be used under advice of a healthcare professional.
We have been at the forefront of manufacturing infant milk formulas and follow-on formulas to feed infants for whom breast milk was not available since 1896. Over the years, we have introduced many innovative formulas based on our research in this field.
WEANING ONTO SOLIDS: DEVELOPING HEALTHY EATING HABITS
FROM AROUND SIX MONTHS of age, appropriate complementary foods should be progressively introduced to baby, ideally while mothers continue to breastfeed up to 12 months and beyond. Complementary feeding is an important step in transition to solid foods, e.g. offering appropriate textures for each developmental stage of a child. Our research shows that variety and exposure can have an impact on eating habits later in life, such as acceptance and liking of vegetables.
We believe that sensory experiences are the key to successfully broadening a baby's diet, which is why we include trained chefs in our research teams. For instance, in Blédina, our experts balance respect for traditional recipes with nutritional guidelines and regulatory requirements and work to obtain the best flavour and consistency, as close as possible to freshly made food.
TODDLERHOOD: TRANSITION TO FAMILY DIET
DURING TODDLERHOOD, children have specific nutritional requirements to fuel their rapid growth. Children’s nutritional needs during this period vary greatly from those of adults. For example, a toddler needs 7 times more vitamin D, 5.5 times more iron and 4 times more calcium than an adult, per kg body weight.
A regular family diet may not always satisfy their requirements for certain nutrients. High levels of protein and salt in adult diets can also pose nutritional challenges for young children.
Providing growing-up or toddler milks as part of a balanced diet can effectively help to address these nutritional needs.
INNOVATION BASED ON SCIENCE
Our research programmes address key scientific topics in early life: maternal nutrition and physiology during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and composition and health benefits of human milk. We also study the development of gut function, microbiota, immune system, brain and metabolism of infants and young children.
Our three research centres, and other innovation facilities across the globe, bring together 400 passionate employees with a variety of expertise representing over 35 nationalities. Recognised for the high quality of their scientific expertise, some of our principal scientists hold academic chairs at leading universities.
Our product development specialists and process technology experts translate scientific concepts into actual products to be manufactured on an industrial scale. During the process, our sensory scientists and packaging experts ensure the products deliver a high quality consumer experience.