Feeding Your Preemie in the NICU

Feeding your preemie in the NICU | MothersCircle.netThank you to Prolacta for this guest post on feeding your preemie in the NICU. It’s stressful, emotional, and challenging to have a baby who’s born early, and as parents, you want to learn about and do what’s best for feeding your preemie. Here is some science behind NICU infant nutrition.

In honor of the nearly 500,000 babies born prematurely each year (according to the Centers for Disease Control, that’s 1 in every 8 infants born in the United States), we’re sharing good news about the latest in medical advancements that are helping more preemies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) survive and thrive.

Critically ill, premature infants have special dietary needs requiring higher levels of fat, protein and calories than full-term babies need. Mounting scientific research supports the use of an exclusive human milk diet for preemies and this has led to a rise in use among NICUs across the country. Based on this research, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a recommendation that all preterm infants receive breast milk, be it a mother’s own or donor milk.1

While feeding preterm infants a diet of 100% breast milk may seem like an obvious solution to those who breastfeed, the reality is that for generations, preemies in NICUs were fed cow-milk-based formula. Even if a mother’s own breast milk was available, it was typically “fortified” (to add extra nutrients) with a fortifier containing cow-milk protein.

A peer-reviewed analysis by Steven A. Abrams, MD, Medical Director of the Neonatal swaddled baby, soothing babies, learning about babies, learning to comfort baby, parenting classes, birthing classes, should I take a childbirth class?, dads and birth classes,Nutrition Program at Baylor College of Medicine, found that as the volume of milk containing cow milk-based protein fed to infants in the control group increased, so did the likelihood of developing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) or sepsis.2
Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is inflammation which causes death of intestinal tissue. It most often affects premature or sick infants and occurs when the lining of the intestinal wall dies and the tissue decays. NEC affects up to one in six babies weighing 1250 grams (2.756 pounds) or less at birth who receive bovine (cow) components in their diets.3,4 NEC is one of the leading causes of mortality among preterm babies.5

Sepsis is a potentially fatal bacterial infection of the bloodstream resulting in widespread inflammation.

Leading hospitals across the country currently provide an exclusive human milk diet to preemies in their NICUs through the use of specially formulated human milk-based Neonatal Nutritional Products from Prolacta Bioscience that are clinically proven6,7,8 to improve health outcomes and decrease mortality9 for critically ill preemies in the NICU. Prolacta’s products are derived from 100-percent human breast milk and are formulated to meet the needs of extremely premature infants in the NICU. Some hospitals have also partnered with Prolacta for a donor milk program in which mothers can donate their excess breast milk to support their local community hospital.

The statistics on preemies are staggering: more than 40,000 babies are born each year weighing less than 2 pounds 12 ounces – so small one could fit in the palm of your hand. These fragile preemies are fed through a tube, and spend the first 70-90 days of their life in the NICU where specialized nutritional support is vital to their survival.

Another study published in the Journal Breastfeeding Medicine concludes that a diet of 100 percent breast milk results in lower mortality for extremely premature infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).10 It is encouraging that much scientific evidence demonstrates that an exclusive breast milk diet has the best health benefits and outcomes for extremely premature infants. With greater awareness for prematurity awareness, and the growing science in the field on human milk-based nutrition, the outlook for feeding preemies in the NICU is brighter than ever.

Citations:

1. American Academy of Pediatrics, “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk.” Pediatrics. 2012;129:e827
2. Abrams S, et al., “Greater Mortality and Morbidity in Extremely Preterm Infants Fed a Diet Containing Cow Milk Protein Products.” Breastfeeding Medicine. 2014;9(6):281-285
3. Sullivan S, et al., “An Exclusive Human Milk-Based Diet is Associated with a Lower Rate of Necrotizing Enterocolitis than a Diet of Human Milk and Bovine Milk-Based Products.” Journal of Pediatrics. 2010;156(4):562-567
4. Cristofalo E, et al., “Randomized Trial of Exclusive Human Milk versus Preterm Formula Diets in Extremely Premature Infants.” Journal of Pediatrics. 2013;163(6):1592-1595
5. Ganapathy V, et al., “Long Term Healthcare Costs of Infants Who Survived Neonatal Necrotizing Enterocolitis: A Retrospective Longitudinal Study Among Infants Enrolled in Texas Medicaid.” BMC Pediatrics. 2013;13:127
6. Sullivan S, et al., “An Exclusive Human Milk-Based Diet is Associated with a Lower Rate of Necrotizing Enterocolitis than a Diet of Human Milk and Bovine Milk-Based Products.” Journal of Pediatrics. 2010;156(4):562-567
7. Cristofalo E, et al., “Randomized Trial of Exclusive Human Milk versus Preterm Formula Diets in Extremely Premature Infants.” Journal of Pediatrics. 2013;163(6):1592-1595
8. Hair A, et al., “Randomized Trial of Human Milk Cream as a Supplement to Standard Fortification of an Exclusive Human Milk-Based Diet in Infants 750-1250g Birth Weight.” Journal of Pediatrics. 2014;165(5):915-9209. Abrams S, et al., “Greater Mortality and Morbidity in Extremely Preterm Infants Fed a Diet Containing Cow Milk Protein Products.” Breastfeeding Medicine. 2014;9(6):281-285
10. Ganapathy V, et al., “Long Term Healthcare Costs of Infants Who Survived Neonatal Necrotizing Enterocolitis: A Retrospective Longitudinal Study Among Infants Enrolled in Texas Medicaid.” BMC Pediatrics. 2013;13:127

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