Breast Milk Feeding, Brain Development, and Neurocognitive Outcomes: A 7-Year Longitudinal Study in Infants Born at Less Than 30 Weeks' Gestation

J Pediatr. 2016 Oct;177:133-139.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.06.045. Epub 2016 Jul 29.

Abstract

Objectives: To determine the associations of breast milk intake after birth with neurological outcomes at term equivalent and 7 years of age in very preterm infants

Study design: We studied 180 infants born at <30 weeks' gestation or <1250 grams birth weight enrolled in the Victorian Infant Brain Studies cohort from 2001-2003. We calculated the number of days on which infants received >50% of enteral intake as breast milk from 0-28 days of life. Outcomes included brain volumes measured by magnetic resonance imaging at term equivalent and 7 years of age, and cognitive (IQ, reading, mathematics, attention, working memory, language, visual perception) and motor testing at 7 years of age. We adjusted for age, sex, social risk, and neonatal illness in linear regression.

Results: A greater number of days on which infants received >50% breast milk was associated with greater deep nuclear gray matter volume at term equivalent age (0.15 cc/d; 95% CI, 0.05-0.25); and with better performance at age 7 years of age on IQ (0.5 points/d; 95% CI, 0.2-0.8), mathematics (0.5; 95% CI, 0.1-0.9), working memory (0.5; 95% CI, 0.1-0.9), and motor function (0.1; 95% CI, 0.0-0.2) tests. No differences in regional brain volumes at 7 years of age in relation to breast milk intake were observed.

Conclusion: Predominant breast milk feeding in the first 28 days of life was associated with a greater deep nuclear gray matter volume at term equivalent age and better IQ, academic achievement, working memory, and motor function at 7 years of age in very preterm infants.

Keywords: academic achievement; intelligence; magnetic resonance imaging; memory; preterm infant.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / growth & development
  • Intelligence
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Milk, Human*