In the last decade, the number of hospitals giving premature infants donated breast milk has nearly doubled, according to a new study published in Pediatrics.
This increase has also led to higher rates of breastfeeding at hospital discharge and to lower incidences of necrotizing enterocolitis, a severe intestinal illness that can afflict newborns. A HealthDay News article explains:
In 2007, only 27 of 126 California NICUs were using donor milk. By 2013, that had risen to 55 of 133 NICUs. Across all hospitals, more moms started breast-feeding over the study period and the rate of necrotizing enterocolitis dropped by about half, the study found.
But the odds of improvement were greater at hospitals that started using donor milk, the study found. At those hospitals, about 53 percent of mothers had started breast-feeding by the time their babies were discharged in 2007; in 2013, that figure was almost 62 percent.
Over those same years, preemies' rates of necrotizing enterocolitis fell from 6.6 percent, to just more than 4 percent.
Senior author Henry Lee, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics, cautioned that the study didn't prove the cause of the changes. But: "It's good to see correlations going in this direction," he told HealthDay News.
Previously: More-nutritious breast milk for preemies, A Q&A with breastfeeding expert Susan Crowe and Low-tech yet essential: Why parents are vital members of care teams for premature babies
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