Prior to the 1950s, care of preterm infants amounted to little more than keeping them warm and feeding them human milk, which was usually from a donor or wet-nurse. As formula was introduced, preterm infants often received it, but recent research has begun to investigate the impact of formula vs. mother’s own milk on these babies.
This presentation outlines research in the US which looks at the health and developmental outcomes for very low birth weight babies fed mother’s own milk or preterm formula over a four-year period. Areas covered include necrotizing enterocolitis, late on-set sepsis, retinal and bronchial problems and growth velocity.
The intake of mother’s own milk during the first days of life is associated with decreased morbidity or mortality of very low birth weight infants in the first 60 days of life. The presentation covers research into neural developmental outcomes (cognitive, language, motor) in the first 20 months of life. It is noted that selective brain growth and development is most vulnerable with a preterm birth; there is a growing interest in the possibility that human milk is neuro-protective.