Human milk is the feeding strategy to prevent necrotizing enterocolitis!

Semin Perinatol. 2017 Feb;41(1):36-40. doi: 10.1053/j.semperi.2016.09.016. Epub 2016 Nov 8.


Human milk is the preferred diet for preterm infants as it protects against a multitude of NICU challenges, specifically necrotizing enterocolitis. Infants who receive greater than 50% of mother's own milk (MOM) in the 2 weeks after birth have a significantly decreased risk of NEC. An additional factor in the recent declining rates of NEC is the increased utilization of donor human milk (DHM). This creates a bridge until MOM is readily available, thus decreasing the exposure to cow milk protein. Preterm infants are susceptible to NEC due to the immaturity of their gastrointestinal and immune systems. An exclusive human milk diet compensates for these immature systems in many ways such as lowering gastric pH, enhancing intestinal motility, decreasing epithelial permeability, and altering the composition of bacterial flora. Ideally, preterm infants should be fed human milk and avoid bovine protein. A diet consisting of human milk-based human milk fortifier is one way to provide the additional nutritional supplements necessary for adequate growth while receiving the protective benefits of a human milk diet.

Keywords: Extremely preterm infant; Human milk; Necrotizing enterocolitis; Preterm nutrition.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / diet therapy*
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / physiopathology
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / prevention & control*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Infant, Extremely Premature
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / diet therapy*
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / physiopathology
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight
  • Milk
  • Milk, Human / immunology
  • Milk, Human / microbiology*
  • Probiotics