Wow. This new study makes you really appreciate the importance of a preterm baby being exclusively fed maternal breast milk.

The new research by Afif El-Khuffash et al., (2021) shows...

➡️ If a preemie baby is fed exclusively with their mother's own breast milk during the first few weeks...

➡️ This improves cardiovascular health and early cardiovascular development at age one year - approaching levels comparable to those of full-term infants.

➡️ Preterm infants with a higher intake of infant formula DO NOT demonstrate this recovery.

About the new study

The new research involved 80 preterm infants and was led by Professor Afif EL-Khuffash, Clinical Professor of Paediatrics, RCSI, Ireland, in collaboration with researchers from University of Oxford; Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto; Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine; Washington University School of Medicine; and Harvard Medical School.

It is the first study of its kind to show higher intake of the mother's own breast milk can improve cardiac performance in preterm infants. The study was published in JAMA Network Open.

More about preterm infants:

Children and adults who are born preterm (before 37 weeks' gestation) can have impaired heart function compared to babies born at full-term.

If born preterm, children and adults are at increased risk of cardiovascular disorders, including ischemic heart disease, heart failure, systemic and pulmonary hypertension, and sadly, are more likely to die as a result of cardiovascular disease.

However, if the baby is fed exclusively with their mother's own breast milk during the first few weeks after birth, a baby's heart recovers to levels comparable to healthy term born infants.

The research shows if preterm infants consumed higher amounts of their own mother's milk, babies had:

  • Greater left and right heart function and structure
  • With lower lung pressures
  • And enhanced right heart response to stress at one year of age
  • These levels are close to those seen in term-born healthy infants.

According to the research, these findings were apparent BEFORE discharge from the hospital. The improvements persisted up to a year of age (which is the duration of the follow-up).

And for me, here's the really interesting finding:

Preterm infants with a higher intake of infant formula DO NOT demonstrate this recovery.

Professor EL-Khuffash said:

"Preterm infants have abnormal heart function. However, those who are fed their mother's own milk demonstrate recovery of their heart function to levels comparable to healthy term born infants. Preterm infants fed formula do not demonstrate this recovery."

My personal take-home message:

Wouldn't it be great if this study, and studies like it about the power of human milk, could be communicated really clearly to every parent whose baby is born preterm.

And on top of this, wouldn't it be great if every parent of a preterm infant (and every new parent of a full-term infant) had dedicated one-to-one professional lactation support available 24/7 365 days a year.

Ideally this support would be free to access whenever and wherever this support was needed, whether at home or in hospital.

And also on my wish-list, much more funding into the science of human milk. And lastly, more funding for those who communicate the science of human milk!

What do you think?


Article & Science reference:

Science Daily Article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/08/2108...

Afif El-Khuffash, Adam J. Lewandowski, Amish Jain, Aaron Hamvas, Gautam K. Singh, Philip T. Levy. Cardiac Performance in the First Year of Age Among Preterm Infants Fed Maternal Breast Milk. JAMA Network Open, 2021; 4 (8): e2121206 DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.21206

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