A new study suggests that the more breast milk premature babies are fed while in neonatal intensive care, the greater the level of brain development.
When a baby is born premature, the cerebral cortex—the part of the brain for learning and thinking—is usually underdeveloped.
The study discovered that pre-mature babies who consumed high levels of breast milk quickly developed the cerebral cortex to match those of babies born to term.
According to experts feeding premature babies with breast milk could help reduce the developmental and learning problems associated with preterm birth.
The research dubbed Theirworld Edinburgh Birth Cohort, was conducted by researchers from University of Edinburgh, where they scanned the brains of 212 babies and monitored the progress from birth to adulthood.
The group included 135 babies who were born before 32 weeks of pregnancy and 77 who were born to term.
Researchers collected information about how premature babies were fed during neonatal intensive care and brain scans for all babies were performed around 40 weeks from conception.
From this, brain scans revealed that babies who received higher amounts of breast milk—from their mother or a donor—had a more mature cerebral cortex compared with those who received less, similar to the scans of babies born to term.
About 15 million children worldwide are born pre-term each year and it is still the biggest cause of death and disability among newborn babies.
Children who are born pre-mature are more likely to develop problems such as learning difficulties, problems, sight and hearing problem,behavioral issues and cerebral palsy affecting their whole life.
Research has shown that breast milk provides a baby with ideal nutrition and supports growth and development.
Further, breastfeeding can help protect babies against some short- and long-term illnesses and diseases.