In the neonatal intensive care unit, human milk is preferred food for preterm and very preterm infants. For very premature infants (less than 30 weeks), it is well established that human milk reduces the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a bacterial infection of the intestines with devasting consequences, and is associated with improved growth, cognitive development, and survival compared to infants receiving formula. There’s just one problem: donor milk, used when an premature infant’s mother’s own milk (MOM) is not available, generally consists of pooled and pasteurized milk from several donors. Donor milk – the second best food for premature infants after milk from the infant’s own mother – is suddenly missing one OR MORE of the factors in human milk that is thought to protect against NEC and other gastrointestinal infections. But, what would happen if you incubated donor milk with unpasteurized milk, from the infant’s own mother?
It is well established that with very few exceptions, human milk is the preferred first food for infants. While the benefits of breastfeeding/receiving human milk are considerable and influence the development of multiple systems in the infant, perhaps the best known benefits of human milk are its immunoprotective properties. Worldwide, breastfeeding is associated with reduced risk of infectious diseases in infants, and these protections persist even in highly hygienic conditions such as the United States (Bartick & Reinhold 2010). Many immune factors are found in human milk, including immune cells, cytokines that regulate immune responses, and secretory Immunoglobulin-A (sIgA), perhaps the most common immunoprotein in human milk. It is well established that there is considerable variation in the immune factors in milk between individual mothers and between populations. It is also known that many of the immune factors in milk are highly responsive, changing in response to active infection of either the mother or infant (blog post on this topic
Perhaps one of the most widespread pieces of advice women expressing milk will hear is about the best way to
Breastfeeding belongs in our modern understanding of what public health is.