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Breast milk helps pre-term babies catch up in brain development

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Posted October 3, 2018

Some babies act like they are in a rush. They come to this world too quickly and have to deal with some health problems because of it. Scientists know this issue, which is why they are looking for ways to aid the brain development of pre-term babies. However, nature already has a pretty good solution. Scientists from the University of Edinburgh found that pre-term babies show better brain development when fed breast milk.

Pre-term babies need breast milk for improved brain development. Image credit: Polihale via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Breast feeding is goof for everyone – it benefits the baby and his mom. However, nowadays formula often replaces breast milk because of our crazy fast life. Then there are some issues associated with pre-term birth and breastfeeding. Scientists say that health professionals should help mothers to provide breast milk in the weeks after giving birth. Pre-term babies are facing a higher risk of problems with learning and thinking skills in later life due to interrupted development. Several studies have shown that pre-term birth is associated with changes in the white matter in the brain – a part, which is responsible for communication between brain cells.

Scientists analysed MRI brain scans from 47 babies, who were born before 33 weeks gestation. Scans were taken when they reached term-equivalent age, which is typically 40 weeks from conception. Scientists also gathered information about the diet of these infants – they wanted to know whether they’ve been fed natural breast milk or commercially available formula. Some of the babies that were fed breast milk were actually receiving milk from a donor. Scientists then compiled the results and looked for associations between these variables. They found that those infants who were fed breast milk showed improved brain connectivity compared with others.

This study shows that even the smallest pre-term babies can benefit from breast milk, which can give them the best start in life. However, scientists are also saying that the role of early life nutrition for improving long-term outcomes for pre-term babies is not fully understood. Professor James Boardman, one of the authors of the paper, said: “Mothers of pre-term babies should be supported to provide breast milk while their baby is in neonatal care – if they are able to and if their baby is well enough to receive milk – because this may give their children the best chance of healthy brain development”.

Breastfeeding is important in so many ways. Babies get the best nutrition they need, they bond with their mothers. Meanwhile new moms grow stronger relation with their babies and benefit from decreased risk of breast cancer. Breastfeeding is even more important for pre-term babies.

 

Source: University of Edinburgh

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