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Fat From Human Breast Milk Enhances Preemie Development

Update Date: Aug 15, 2014 05:53 PM EDT

Premature infants get more benefits from human breast milk, according to new research.

A new study observing the long-term health and developmental outcomes of premature infants revealed that those fed human milk fat experienced faster growth than those who weren't given human milk fat.

"For premature babies who weigh less than 1,000 grams (about 2 pounds, 2 ounces), one of the problems is that their lungs and other organs are still developing when they are born. If the infant gains weight and increases in length at a good rate while in the NICU, this helps improve their outcomes," first author Dr. Amy Hair, assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor, neonatologist at Texas Children's Hospital, said in a news release.

Researchers compared the development of infants who received the exclusive human milk diet and the cream supplement, milk fat or byproducts of pasteurizing donor milk, to infants who received just the exclusive human milk diet.

The study revealed that babies who got cream experienced better growth outcomes in terms of weight and length than those in the control group.

"This is a natural way to give them fat. Previously, we would add oils or infant formula to help premature babies grow, but we can now use a natural source from donor milk," said Hair.

"You want to see babies growing in both weight and length," said Hair. "You cannot give them more volumes of milk. Especially if they have lung problems, they have to have a certain volume of milk. This is a way to add calories but not change the volume of milk."

The findings were published Friday in the Journal of Pediatrics.

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