Human milk is medicine for pre-term babies

This is the claim made by Dr Paula Meier during event discussions in the lead up to Medela’s 6th International Breastfeeding and Lactation Symposium (Amsterdam, 15-16 April
2011). Although the benefits of human milk for infants in neonatal intensive care units is widely
accepted, there has been a lack of focus on how to encourage and support mothers of preterm infants to stimulate and establish a milk supply during this difficult time.

Photo: Human milk is medicine for pre-term babies

The majority of mothers of preterm infants have milk that is suitable for pre-term infants, however the information gap that exists between them, and the medical staff will often mean that a milk supply is never established. Given the evidence that infants fed human milk instead of formula do better in general, this is an area which needs to be addressed through practical advice to both staff and new mothers.

Dr Paula Meier has been investigating the benefits of human milk for infants in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) since the 1970s. In 1996, she founded the Rush Mothers’ Milk Club, a programme of evidence-based practice, education and research for NICU infants and their families. She has compiled best practices for encouraging and monitoring breastfeeding in NICUs based on the observations made within the programme and the experiences of preterm mothers.

Her message is clear; “Your milk is medicine for your baby, and the only way your infant will get that medicine is for you to breastfeed.” Simple concepts such as the introduction of breastfeeding counsellor programmes with mothers who have been through similar experiences, and the use of quality electronic pumps and breast shields can go a long way in helping a mother establish and effective milk supply, and ultimately providing their medicinal quality milk to their growing baby.

Dr Paula Meier will review the evidence supporting the use of human milk during and after NICU hospitalisation and will highlight best clinical practices to improve outcomes for NICU infants with human milk during a presentation at Medela’s 6th International Breastfeeding and Lactation Symposium (Amsterdam, 15-16 April 2011) This symposium is targeted at the medical community with particular interest for nurses, midwives, paediatricians, neonatologists and lactation consultants.



Picture Credit: pixelio / Karin


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