Mother's own milk (MOM) reduces the risk of morbidities in very low birth weight (VLBW) infants. When MOM is unavailable, donor breastmilk (DM) is used, with unclear impact on short- and long-term growth. This retrospective analysis compared anthropometric data at six time points from birth to 20⁻24 months corrected age in VLBW infants who received MOM supplements of preterm formula (n = 160) versus fortified DM (n = 161) during neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) hospitalization. The cohort was 46% female; mean birth weight and gestational age (GA) were 998 g and 27.3 weeks. Multilevel linear growth models assessed changes in growth z-scores short-term (to NICU discharge) and long-term (post-discharge), controlling for amount of DM or formula received in first 28 days of life, NICU length of stay (LOS), birth GA, and sex. Z-scores for weight and length decreased during hospitalization but increased for all parameters including head circumference post-discharge. Short-term growth was positively associated with LOS and birth GA. A higher preterm formula proportion, but not DM proportion, was associated with slower rates of decline in short-term growth trajectories, but feeding type was unrelated to long-term growth. In conclusion, controlling for total human milk fed, DM did not affect short- or long-term growth.
Keywords: breastfeeding; donor milk; growth; human milk; neonatal; very low birth weight.