Growth and Breastfeeding among Low Birth Weight Infants Fed with or without Protein Enrichment of Human Milk
The effect of protein enrichment of mother's milk on growth of low birthweight infants needs further exploration in order to optimize feeding strategies. The aim of this study was to describe feeding and growth of infants weighing <1,900 g at birth, up to a corrected age of 18 months, with or without protein-enriched breastmilk.
A retrospective, descriptive, non-experimental design was used to describe the growth of 52 low birthweight infants. Data on their growth and feeding were collected from medical records at hospitals and child health care clinics. Despite more severe morbidity, the infants given protein-enriched milk showed similar growth as the other study infants. Standard deviation score for length at birth correlated positively with delta standard deviation score for length, from discharge to 12 and from discharge to 18 months corrected age. Duration of ‘full’ breastfeeding had a significant impact on subsequent improvement in SDS for weight. At discharge a smaller proportion of singletons fed with protein enriched milk were breastfed ‘fully’. Infants who established breastfeeding at an early post-menstrual age were born with more optimal weight standard deviation score and had a better weight gain after discharge.
We conclude that protein-enriched breast milk enables low birthweight infants requiring especially intensive care to attain growth at discharge comparable to that of healthier infants not given enriched milk. Low standard deviation score for length at birth may predict poor growth after discharge. However duration of ‘full’ breastfeeding had a significant impact on subsequent improvement in SDS for weight. Therefore it is important that mothers of LBW infants are given sufficient support of lactation and breastfeeding.
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