Why Breast is best for preemies

Breast is best—and that’s especially true when it comes to feeding a ‘preemie’.

Premature babies who are fed breast milk are healthier than those given formula, say researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Breastmilk helps the baby’s developing gut and allows it to absorb nutrients better.  In particular, they have higher levels of the ‘good’ bacteria B.breve in their gut, which helps create a barrier that prevents ‘leaky gut’.

The bacteria don’t just help the baby absorb nutrients and put on weight at a vital time, they also help prevent necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), the third leading cause of death in newborns, which affects up to 10 percent of them, and is responsible for half of all preemie deaths.

The researchers followed the progress of 113 premature babies who were born between 24 and 32 weeks.  The gut microbiome in the breastfed newborns had higher levels of B.breve bacteria which helped metabolize carbohydrates more efficiently, and which, in turn, strengthened the gut barrier faster, so reducing the risk of serious illness and death.

No wonder breastmilk is known as ‘liquid gold’, the researchers say.

mBio, 2022; 13: doi: 10.1128/mbio.01299-22

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