In a new clinical report, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages support by hospital providers to assist mothers in making breastmilk for their very low birth weight infants. The report discusses the short- and long-term health benefits, as well as the challenges, in breastfeeding these infants.
Lower risk of complications
"Promoting Human Milk and Breastfeeding for the Very Low Birth Weight Infant," published in the November 2021 Pediatrics, explains how a mother's own breastmilk is the optimal nutrition for very low birth weight infants. Babies fed their mother's own breastmilk have lower risks of significant complications of prematurity that include necrotizing enterocolitis, late-onset sepsis, chronic lung disease, retinopathy of prematurity, and neurodevelopmental impairment.
The report recommends use of pasteurized donor milk feeding when a mother's own milk is not available, is insufficient, or is best not to use for medical reasons.
Lactation support in the NICU
Multidisciplinary teams in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), according to the AAP, can play a critical role in ongoing lactation support by providing education, institutional supports for providing milk. This includes encouraging an early start to breastfeeding and expressing milk, ready access to breast pumps, and skin-to skin care.