What's best for very low birth weight babies

August 16, 2012

While the health benefits of breast feeding baby are well known, a new study published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Pediatrics finds that, for very low birth weight (VLBW) babies, a small amount of fortification can improve growth rates without sacrificing the benefits associated with mother's milk.

Human milk provides babies with exactly the right nutrients for growth and also helps protect against infections and diseases. Breast fed babies are less likely to have diarrhea or vomiting, they have fewer chest and ear infections, and long term are less likely to become obese or develop eczema. However, in hospitals human milk is also associated with slower growth in the first few months of life compared to formula-fed infants.

Researchers from the University of Iowa looked at records of births between 2003 and 2005 in order to compare birth weights, diet, and weight when the baby was discharged from hospital. The majority of VLBW infants (less than 1250g), although small, were the appropriate size for their (an average of 27 weeks), and stayed in hospital for two to three months after birth. Babies were fed either mother's milk, donor (pasteurized human) milk, or formula, all of which were supplemented as required to improve and total calories.

The results showed that, while the growth of all the babies was within normal limits, the babies fed more than 75% human milk grew more slowly than babies fed with less than 75% human milk. This difference in growth was even more pronounced for babies fed on donor, rather than mother's, milk.

Dr Tarah Colaizy, who led this study, explained, "Human milk offers many benefits for VLBW infants, and should of course be the default diet for all such infants. However our babies on average became smaller for gestational age between birth and discharge from hospital. We recommend that special attention is given to ensure that the amount protein and calories consumed is necessary to provide the benefits of a diet without sacrificing growth."

So, while breast milk is definitely still best, very small babies may need a little help.

Explore further: Formula-fed preemies at higher risk for dangerous GI condition than babies who get donor milk

More information: Growth in VLBW infants fed predominantly fortified maternal and donor human milk diets: a retrospective cohort study Tarah T Colaizy, Susan Carlson and Frank H Morriss Jr. BMC Pediatrics (Section: Neonatology) (in press)

Related Stories

Formula-fed preemies at higher risk for dangerous GI condition than babies who get donor milk

May 1, 2011
Extremely premature babies fed human donor milk are less likely to develop the dangerous intestinal condition necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) than babies fed a standard premature infant formula derived from cow's milk, according ...

New infant formula ingredients boost babies' immunity by feeding their gut bacteria

February 29, 2012
Adding prebiotic ingredients to infant formula helps colonize the newborn's gut with a stable population of beneficial bacteria, and probiotics enhance immunity in formula-fed infants, two University of Illinois studies report.

Recommended for you

Are children who see movie characters use guns more likely to use them?

September 25, 2017
Children who watched a PG-rated movie clip containing guns played with a disabled real gun longer and pulled the trigger more often than children who saw the same movie not containing guns, according to the results of a randomized ...

Asthma drug tied to nightmares, depression

September 20, 2017
(HealthDay)—The asthma medication Singulair (montelukast) appears linked to neuropsychiatric side effects, such as depression, aggression, nightmares and headaches, according to a new review by Dutch researchers.

Parents not confident schools can assist child with chronic disease, mental health

September 18, 2017
If your child had an asthma attack during the school day, would school personnel know how to respond?

Premature infants may get metabolic boost from mom's breast milk

September 14, 2017
The breast milk of mothers with premature babies has different amounts of microRNA than that of mothers with babies born at term, which may help premature babies catch up in growth and development, according to researchers.

Explaining bursts of activity in brains of preterm babies

September 12, 2017
The source of spontaneous, high-amplitude bursts of activity seen in the brains of preterm babies, which are vital for healthy development, has been identified by a team led by researchers at UCL and King's College London.

Why one teenager may need more—or less—sleep than another

August 30, 2017
Sleep problems contribute to a number of mental health issues in adolescents, researchers say. But a lingering question is whether some teens need more—or less—sleep than others to be healthy and at their best.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.