If you have a preemie and are considering breastfeeding, a new study may be the final straw to sway your decision. Breast milk can give preemies’ hearts a big boost, a groundbreaking study suggests. For Black women, who are 50% more likely to give birth to a premature baby than white women this is great news that may provide some solace.
“This study … adds to the already known benefits of breast milk for infants born prematurely,” study leader Dr. Afif El-Khuffash, a clinical professor of pediatrics at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) University of Medicine and Health Sciences in Dublin says.
He says the findings offer the first evidence of a link between early diet in preemies and heart function over the first year of life.
Because preemies’ heart function is significantly lower than that of healthy full-term babies, they are more likely to develop heart problems later in life — including heart disease, heart failure, systemic and pulmonary high blood pressure, the researchers note. They also have a higher risk of death from heart disease.
According to the CDC, Black infants have more than two times the death rate of white women.
This study of 80 preterm infants found that those initially fed only their mother’s breast milk had improved heart function at 1 year of age, and that it approached the level found in healthy full-term babies.
Specifically, preemies who received high amounts of mother’s milk during the first weeks of life had healthier