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Maternal Milk for Very Preterm Infants Tied to Long-Term Neurodevelopment


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Last Updated: July 25, 2022.

MONDAY, July 25, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Higher maternal milk intake during neonatal hospitalization is associated with higher performance IQ, better academic achievement in reading and math, and fewer attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms at 7 years, according to a study published online July 13 in JAMA Network Open.

Mandy B. Belfort, M.D., from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues examined the extent to which maternal milk feeding after very preterm birth is associated with cognitive, academic, and behavioral outcomes at school age. The analysis included 586 infants born at less than 33 weeks of gestation at five Australian perinatal centers (2001 through 2005), with follow-up evaluations conducted at a corrected age of 7 years.

The researchers found that higher maternal milk intake during neonatal hospitalization was associated with higher performance IQ (0.67 points per additional 25 mL/kg daily), reading scores (1.14 points per 25 mL/kg daily), and math scores (0.76 points per 25 mL/kg daily), as well as fewer ADHD symptoms (−1.08 points per 25 mL/kg daily). Additionally, there was an association between longer duration of maternal milk intake and higher reading (0.33 points per additional month), spelling (0.31 points per month), and math (0.30 points per month) scores. There was no association observed for maternal milk intake and improved full-scale IQ, verbal IQ, executive function, or behavior. Most associations were stronger among infants born at lower gestational ages, particularly <30 weeks.

“These findings affirm recommendations to provide maternal milk to hospitalized very preterm infants based on potential long-term benefits to neurodevelopment,” the authors write.

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