Providing very-low-birthweight babies with fortified human donor breast milk made no difference to their developmental neurological outcomes at 18 months compared with giving formula.
This randomised controlled trial looked at 363 babies with birth weights of less than 1500g in neonatal intensive care units in Canada. When the mother’s own milk supply was limited, the babies were given either nutrient-enriched donor breast milk or formula developed for premature babies. There was no difference in their understanding, language, or ability to manipulate objects at 18 months.
This finding might help to reduce anxiety about providing formula in areas where donor breast milk is difficult to obtain. However, the research was focussed on developmental outcomes rather than potential effects of donor breast milk on other risks of prematurity, such as immunity or gastrointestinal complications.
This trial will continue to collect data to re-assess developmental outcomes when the children reach five years of age.
Read the full signal here