Background: Provision of human milk has important implications for the health and outcomes of extremely preterm (EP) infants. This study evaluated the effects of an exclusive human milk diet on the health of EP infants during their stay in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Subjects and methods: EP infants <1,250 g birth weight received a diet consisting of either human milk fortified with a human milk protein-based fortifier (HM) (n=167) or a diet containing variable amounts of milk containing cow milk-based protein (CM) (n=93). Principal outcomes were mortality, necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), growth, and duration of parenteral nutrition (PN).
Results: Mortality (2% versus 8%, p=0.004) and NEC (5% versus 17%, p=0.002) differed significantly between the HM and CM groups, respectively. For every 10% increase in the volume of milk containing CM, the risk of sepsis increased by 17.9% (p<0.001). Growth rates were similar between groups. The duration of PN was 8 days less in the subgroup of infants receiving a diet containing <10% CM versus ≥10% CM (p<0.02).
Conclusions: An exclusive human milk diet, devoid of CM-containing products, was associated with lower mortality and morbidity in EP infants without compromising growth and should be considered as an approach to nutritional care of these infants.