Breast milk contains good bacteria
- With over 130 oligosaccharides, prebiotics and probiotics that are specific to human milk. These good bacteria help colonize the premature baby’s gut with friendly, healthy live cells and antibodies. These antibodies help the growth of good pathogens and help to protect against severe intestinal inflammation and an infection called Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) that can be very devastating to a premature baby.
- According to studies, premature babies who are fed human milk rather than formula are twenty (20) times less likely to develop NEC.
Breast milk helps the digestive tract
- Human milk contains something called epidermal growth factor (EGF) which stimulates the growth of the cells that line the intestines, making them more efficient at digesting food. Because the premature infant’s intestinal lining is immature, it makes it very difficult to digest fat, which is essential for growth.
- Human milk contains an enzyme called lipase that helps break down the fat in the intestines so that it can be absorbed.
- Premature intestines also have decreased lactase, which is an enzyme that helps digest carbohydrates and sugars. Human milk contains lactase that helps aid in this digestion making it easier for the baby to absorb these vital nutrients that are needed for growth and development.
Breast milk is a brain builder
- Human milk contains the perfect mix of special fats that aid in the development of the brain and the eyes.
- A brain building amino acid called taurine is found in high concentration in breast milk and helps with retinal (eye) development.
- Human milk also contains brain building polyunsaturated fatty acids called DHA and ARA. These are commonly known as the “smart fats”. These smart fats are very important for the production of myelin, which is the fatty layer that insulates the nerves. DHA and ARA help the premature baby’s brain grow as it would have in the last few important weeks of pregnancy.
Human milk is more than just a meal! It has so many powerful benefits that help the preterm baby not only grow and survive, but thrive in the NICU. Human milk helps reduce many other serious preterm complications and should be considered an essential part of neonatal care.