Breast Milk Helps Mental Development In Premature Babies

Study after study clearly demonstrates the importance and benefits of breastfeeding. Now, a recent study shows that premature babies who are fed their mother’s breast milk show better mental development than those who aren’t.

Many premature babies are not routinely fed their mother’s milk and are instead fed infant formula. However, a recent study now stresses the importance of breast milk for preterm babies and urges that all premature babies should be fed theirs mother’s milk when at all possible.

The study presented its report to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The study involved 773 premature babies who were born extremely underweight – less than 1kg (2.2 lbs) – Between 1999 and 2002.

The mental development was noted in infants who were fed breast milk and those that were fed infant formula. At age 30 months, an intelligence test was conducted on all babies. It found that the average mental development in those that were fed their mother’s milk was more advanced than those that weren’t.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development backed the study and Dr. Duane Alexander stated that: “These findings strongly suggest that, whenever possible, preterm infants should routinely be given breast milk during their stay in the intensive care unit”.

Another study backs up these findings. It found that preterm babies who were tube-fed breast milk had IQS 8 points higher than those that were fed infant formula.

Mother’s milk contains DHA (docosohexaenoic acid) and AA (arachidonic acid) which are known to contribute to brain and retinal development. Also, Nature has seen to it that the milk a mother produces for a premature baby is different than one delivered at full term. Among other things, premature breast milk contains higher levels of Necrotizing Enterocolitis, which helps to prevent serious inflammation of the bowels.

It is also believed that premature babies who suckle at the breast suffer less from stress, which in turn leads to a reduction of other physical ailments.

Premature babies that are fed their mother’s breast milk leave the incubator sooner than those fed infant formula.

Breast milk is a wonderful, organic and intelligent food; it constantly changes through the months and years of a child’s life – its constituency changes throughout the day and even during the feed itself. It changes in order to deliver the correct dosage of nutrients a growing child needs. It is by far the best way for a mother to not only nourish but protect her child.

Until recently, breastfeeding was often overlooked with premature babies. Now more studies are showing just how vital preterm babies are fed their mother’s milk. Not only can it significantly increase the development of the child, it can even make the difference between life and death.