In a study that followed preterm infants for seven years, investigators found that children who received greater quantities of maternal milk both during and after time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) had greater academic achievement, higher IQs, and reduced ADHD symptoms.
Children who were born preterm are at heightened risk of lower academic achievement in math, reading, and other skills and are also at greater risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But a new study suggests that an intervention in the first weeks and months of a preterm infant’s life may lead to better neurodevelopmental outcomes in later years. Colostrum and breast milk contain antibodies called immunoglobulins.
They are a certain kind of protein that allows a mother to pass immunity to her baby. In a study that followed preterm infants for seven years, investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital together with collaborators at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute found that children who received greater quantities of maternal milk both during and after time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) had greater academic achievement, higher IQs and reduced ADHD symptoms. Results are published in JAMA Network Open. The study finds that there may be long-term neurodevelopmental benefits to providing maternal milk to preterm infants. A lot of families are dedicated to the idea of providing maternal milk but may face steep challenges. Our findings emphasize the importance of providing support for initiating and sustaining lactation because maternal milk at this early age can provide benefits years later.”
Belfort and colleagues looked at neurodevelopmental outcomes for 586 infants born at less than 33 weeks gestation at one of five Australian perinatal centers. Children were evaluated at age 7 (corrected for prematurity). The team looked at data on maternal milk dose (volume of maternal milk infants received each day) and maternal milk duration (how long parents continued breastfeeding) predicted several neurodevelopmental outcomes. These outcomes included academic achievement, Verbal and Performance IQ, symptoms of ADHD, executive function, and behavior.
The study’s strengths include its large size, the range of outcomes examined, and that the researchers could assess school-age outcomes. Other studies have only followed children through preschool age, making it difficult to assess the full range of neurodevelopmental outcomes, as an affirmation of guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization, both of which recommend maternal milk for infants. Breastfeeding can help protect babies against some short- and long-term illnesses and diseases.
Breastfed babies have a lower risk of asthma, obesity, type one diseases, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Breastfed babies are also less likely to have ear infections and stomach bugs. Therefore, Breastfeeding gives babies the best start for a healthy life and has benefits for the health and wellbeing of mothers and babies.
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