Attempts to fortify human milk for preemies are very common… …It all sounds great, but there are many problems associated with fortification.
Newest related post: Fortify Human Milk for Premature Infants?
and Preemie Feeding: Human Milk Fortifier? Donor Milk?
for more information on feeding preemies.
Attempts to fortify human milk for preemies are very common. Calcium and phosphorous are often added in attept to improve early bone mineralization. Protein is added in an attempt to increase growth rate. Other vitamins and minerals are often added as well. It all sounds great, but there are many problems associated with fortification.
One study analyzed the feeding of a high-protein formula that contained
3 times the protein of human milk, comparing this feed to mother’s milk in low-weight babies. The growth rates were similar, but the high-protein infants had high levels of toxins from protein breakdown in their blood (urea and creatinine). Additionally, two amino acids (components of protein), phenylalanine and tyrosine, were found to be too high in the formula-fed infants’ blood. In excessive amounts, these hinder nervous system development.
Another study reviewed protein utilization in a formula with extra cow’s milk protein added, compared with human milk with extra human milk protein added. The human protein fortified infants gained more weight and had better protein balance. A more recent examination of nonhuman protein enrichment of mother’s milk found more severe illnesses and a reduced duration of “full” breastfeeding while a greater duration of full breastfeeding was associated with better growth scores.
Most breastmilk fortification contains cow’s milk proteins. These are not desirable with breastmilk or in preemie formulas (although they are in nearly all formulas). A few of the problems with these dairy proteins are the high incidence of bovine protein intolerance associated with intestinal inflammation, bleeding, and diarrhea; the slow breakdown of these large proteins in the tiny system, preventing additional formula feedings as early as they are needed for proper caloric intake; and the increased risk of developing childhood diabetes — the risk being greater the earlier cow’s milk proteins are introduced (all of these topics are addressed elsewhere in the book).
It has been shown that breastmilk fortified with any cow’s milk products, which includes nearly any preemie or infant formula or milk fortification powder, reduces the immune protective properties of mother’s milk. A higher rate of infection is seen in infants fed fortified breastmilk versus those fed only human milk. The immune protection from mother can be reduced by fortification in part because E. coli bacterial growth in the intestine increases, which mother’s milk alone hinders. This bacterial flora sets the stage for many diarrheal illnesses. Non-iron-containing soy derived products do not promote E. coli and lead to a lesser increase in infection
overall; however, soy can also cause allergic intolerance.
Various researchers are interested in supplementing elements such as sodium, phosphorous, calcium, and vitamins to the breastfed preemie. These can all be provided without dairy products or iron. Iron supplements will feed E. coli and other challenging bacteria, blocking much of breastmilk’s infection protection, and is not needed in most cases. Vitamins shouldn’t be harmful in low quantities according to the research to date, and vitamin D may enhance bone building when neither mother nor infant is obtaining much sun exposure.
In a German study, half of the preterm infants receiving medium or high levels of calcium supplementation were found to have dangerous calcification in their kidneys, and many suffered abdominal distension as well. We have already seen that breastfed preemies eventually show very good bone mineralization with no supplementation. Another study suggests that bone mineralization in breastfed preemies is as high as in formula-fed preemies by just a few months after birth, but the concern continues about the light bone mineral content early on for breastfed low-birthweight infants.
While it seems a little backwards to use formula-fed infants as the gold standard, comparisons to intrauterine growth are used as well. Breastfed preemies’ bones may lag behind formulafed preemies in this arena. While a very low level of calcium and phosphorous supplementation to the breastfed preemie does not appear harmful, the latest review of studies is unable to confirm an advantage. Added vitamin D may help these to be absorbed.
If protein fortification is desired, it should come from a human or possibly
soy source. Much more research is needed in this area. Vitamin fortifications
appear to have little downside, as opposed to minerals, proteins, or
© Linda Folden Palmer
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