Breast milk improves preterm newborns’ cardiac function: Study

Smaller biventricular volume, shorter length, worse systolic and diastolic function, and a disproportionate increase in muscle mass are all features of early-born children’s hearts.

NEW DELHI Breast milk consumption has been shown to improve cardiovascular health and early cardiovascular development in preterm babies, according to new study from RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences.

The study’s findings were published in the ‘JAMA Network Open‘ journal.

Research observed 80 preterm children

The research of 80 preterm children is the first of its type to indicate that preterm infants who received more breast milk from their mothers had improved heart function at one year age, with values approaching those of healthy full-term newborns.

Professor Afif EL-Khuffash, Clinical Professor of Paediatrics at RCSI and Consultant Neonatologist at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, led the study, which included collaborators from the University of Oxford, Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, and Harvard Medical School.

Prematurely-born exhibit distinctive characteristics, develop heart diseases

Prematurely born children and adults are more prone to develop cardiovascular diseases such as ischemic heart disease, heart failure, and systemic and pulmonary hypertension, as well as to die as a result of cardiovascular illness.

Early-born children’s hearts exhibit distinctive characteristics such as a smaller biventricular volume, shorter length, poorer systolic and diastolic performance, and a disproportionate rise in muscle mass.

As a result, the cardiac function of these babies is considerably lower than that of healthy babies delivered at term. This dysfunction is apparent upon discharge from the hospital and continues throughout their adolescence.

Consumption of breast milk normalizes characteristics

This research found that only consuming breast milk in the first few months after delivery is linked to the normalization of some of these characteristics.

Premature infants who received a high proportion of their mother’s milk during the first few weeks after delivery had better left and right heart function and structure, lower lung pressures, and a better right heart response to stress at one year of age than preterm infants who received more formula, with all measures approaching those seen in healthy term-born children.

These findings were evident before the patient was discharged from the hospital and lasted for a year (the duration of follow up).

This study adds to the well-recognized advantages of breast milk for prematurely born children by providing the first evidence of a connection between early postnatal nutrition and cardiac function in preterm-born infants over the first year of life, Professor EL-Khuffash opines.

Professor EL-Khuffash concludes that the cardiac function of premature babies is impaired, adding that those that are fed their mother’s milk, on the other hand, have their heart function restored to levels equivalent to healthy term-born newborns.

This recovery, as per the Professor, is not seen in preterm children who are fed formula.

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