Got milk? Human milk based fortifiers improve health outcomes for the smallest premature babies

MU researcher Jan Sherman compares traditional cows milk based fortifiers with human milk based alternative

August 28, 2020


Brian Consiglio: More than 380,000 babies are born prematurely in the united states each year, and the most severely underweight premature babies struggle to get the nutrients they need from breast milk alone. To keep them healthy, neonatal intensive care units provide an additional milk fortifier either in the form of cow’s milk or donor breast milk, explains MU nursing professor Jan Sherman.

Sherman: “Feeding these infants is actually quite a difficult problem and we’ve had a choice of using cow’s milk based products, which we have used for decades but we’ve known that these can cause problems. We now have the option of using human milk based products to feed these infants, and to provide the nutrition that they need.”

Consiglio: After comparing the health outcomes of more than 450 severely underweight, premature babies who received either cow-based milk fortifiers or human-based milk fortifiers, Sherman found that the babies who were fed cow milk fortifiers were more than three times as likely to develop necrotizing enterocolitis, a life-threatening intestine disease, and more than twice as likely to develop retinopathy of prematurity, an eye disorder that can lead to blindness.

Sherman: “Everyone wants what’s best for these underweight, tiny premature babies, and choosing the best type of milk fortifiers for feeding them can improve their short and long term health outcomes.”

Consiglio: I’m Brian Consiglio, with a Spotlight on Mizzou.

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