How Human Milk Allows Preemies to Catch Up

A diet of human milk allows the smallest of preemies to catch up on weight gain, new research confirms.

The study, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood Fetal & Neonatal, followed preemies from their NICU discharge until they were about two years old.  Researchers considered two groups of preemies – those whose birthweight was appropriate for their gestational age, and those whose weight was especially low, even accounting for their prematurity.  Both groups were given an exclusive human milk diet while in the NICU. That is, they received only their mother’s breastmilk or donor milk, along with human-milk based fortifier. The infants did not receive bovine-based formula or fortifier.

The results suggest that an exclusive human milk diet can be a boon for both groups, but especially for the smallest of preemies.  From their first visit with researchers, at 12-15 months, to their second visit at 18-22 months, their body mass index spiked – even more so than their fellow preemies whose weight had been gestational-age appropriate at birth.

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