While there has been a lot of talk about how breastmilk improves IQ/development (see links below), there are many other reasons why breastmilk is amazing. For example, breastmilk reduces the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). A recent study on this effect: J Pediatr 2013; 163: 1592-5.
In this multicenter randomized controlled trial involving 7 NICUs, the authors studied extremely premature infants whose mothers did not provide their breastmilk. Infants were fed either a cows-milk based preterm formula (COW, n=24) or pasteurized donor human milk (HUM, n=29). Birth weight and gestational age were similar in both groups, approximately 990 g and 27.5 weeks respectively.
- HUM patients had fewer days of parenteral nutrition: 27 vs. 36, P=.04
- HUM patients had fewer bouts of NEC: 1 (3%) vs. 5 (21%), P=.08; surgical NEC occurred 4 times in COW group compared with 0 in HUM patients (P=.04)
Take-home message: The data from this study are in line with recent American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement that recommends the following: “premature infants should receive only human milk from their mother and that, if it is not available, pasteurized donor human milk should be used.”
Another relevant study: J Pediatr 2010; 156: 562-7.
Related blog posts: