Improve neonatal health with mothers’ milk

A study  conducted in Chicago’s Rush University Medical Centre has sought to better understand how we should tend premature infants. The word has concluded that for these babies, the ‘old-fashioned’ approach to care is best, as low-birthweight pre-term infants given breast milk made significant improvements compared to those infants who did not receive human milk. This result could translate into new guidelines for neonatal intensive care units (NICU), saving money along the way. The work has been published in the Journal of Perinatology.

A risk to preterm neonates is that of contracting sepsis – this can be catastrophic for the whole system, even resulting in death. A fifth of very low birthweight babies in the US develop sepsis; this high-risk occurrence increases length of hospital stay, the amount of time requiring ventilation and predisposes these babies to later neurodevelopmental disorders. This Chicago work has revealed that breast milk during the first 28 days of life for a very low birthweight infant decreases the risk of sepsis by up to 20 percent.

Of 175 preterm infants observed, 23 developed sepsis from various types of bacteria, including E.coli and Streptococcus. This figure of 13% affected by sepsis is significantly lower than the average of 22%. The lead of this study, Dr Aloka Patel, is further investigating the premise that following a breast-milk diet for babies in NICUs could improve neonatal prospects in terms of furthering healthy development.




About Sophie McManus

Sophie is a third year undergraduate studying Biomedical Sciences at Magdalen.