Breastmilk...more important than technology for a premature infant
Premature infants need breastmilk more than anything else. Some doctors and researchers have been saying this for years. Paula Meier, RN, DNSc, FAAN of Rush Children's Hospital is a prime example. She has been running The Mothers' Milk Club since 1996. This group, created to encourage and support mothers to commit to providing their own milk for their premature babies, is "based on the latest research evidence that a mothers' milk is uniquely suited to the multi-faceted needs of her special care newborn infant."
Recently UC San Diego Medical Center began a program to increase the number of the premature infants, or preemies, in their Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that receive their mothers' milk. According to the CBS Evening News April 10th article, "Mother's Milk A Lifesaver For Preemies?", "only 45 percent of preemies go home on breast milk as compared to 74 percent of full-term babies. Doctors here believe that for babies born weighing only a few ounces, human milk means the difference between life and death."
Breastmilk is an extremely complex and living liquid. Though artificial infant formula provides nutrition for babies, it can provide nothing else. I know I have said it before but it is worth repeating: breastmilk - antimicrobial and full of antibodies to provide protection against illnesses and diseases -is only 10% nutrition. 90% of breastmilk is for creating a strong immune system and supporting the healthy and proper development of every system in the body. A mother's milk also matches 50% of her baby's genetic material. WOW!
Breastmilk is uniquely designed to coat the gastrointestinal tract and protect it from harmful pathogens until it has matured and is able to protect itself. This is of utmost importance in preemies who are more likely to develop a life threatening condition known as necrotizing enterocolitis or NEC. Breastmilk significantly reduces the incidence of NEC. At UC San Diego Medical Center they have seen a decrease from 5.8 before the program started to less than 1%.
As more studies about breastmilk are published, more benefits are discovered and the more we understand why formula, which is made from cow's milk or soy, can not possibly compete with the remarkable and complex substance of mother's own milk.