The benefits of breast milk over formula are many and well-known and recent research has added to the list. Investigators at Johns Hopkins Children’s Centre, in Maryland in the US, have found that premature babies fed by human donor milk are far less likely to develop a dangerous intestinal problem than those fed on formula.
Necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) is a form of tissue damage to a baby’s bowel and 40 per cent of babies who develop it die as a result. It is generally seen in babies who are born extremely prematurely, but only one of 29 babies fed on human milk followed as part of the study went on to develop the problem. This compared to five of 24 who were fed on formula.
Researchers said the findings justified moving premature babies onto a human milk only diet. Lead investigator, Elizabeth Cristofalo, a neonatologist at Hopkins Children’s, said:
“The stark differences in the risk of NEC, its complications and the need for surgery between babies who receive human donor milk and those who get formula, signal the need for a change in feeding practices across neonatal intensive care units.”
Such an approach of course demands a supply of donor milk. Human breast milk can be gathered using breast pumps and subsequently stored to help prematurely born babies develop properly.