Long-Term Benefits of Breastfeeding and Donor Human Milk
While short-term improvements in outcomes for infants fed human milk have held our attention for years, reduced illness for example, articles highlighting long-term consequences are less common, but even more intriguing. A recent article published in 2016 examined initial evidence of a positive association between human milk feedings in preterm infants and long-term cardiac structure and function compared with formula fed infants.
The study used the same cohort of 926 preterm infants from previous studies who took part in the randomized, controlled trial of feedings between 1982-1985. These same babies, now adults in their 30s, were tested using MRI. Cardiac function and morphology were assessed and the results found that human milk fed preemies had increased left and right ventricular end-diastolic volume index and stroke index compared with formula fed babies. Donor human milk conferred a similar level of benefits as the expressed mother’s own milk.
Human milk may act to protect vascular and cardiac development as it contains essential growth factors, such as vascular endothelial growth factor, which are of particular benefit to early stages of blood vessel formation in preterm infants. This points to a reduction of long-term cardiac risk. These factors are pertinent to normal growth and development, as well as improving preterm infant health.
For more information, please refer to the aforementioned article.
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