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Early milk feeds benefit premature babies

New Delhi, Sat, 21 Apr 2012 NI Wire

A new study has revealed that earlier milk feeds would benefit at-risk premature babies.

The study done at The University of Oxford says that the contrary to earlier beliefs, babies were not at a great risk of severe bowel problems if tube-feeds are removed.

The results of the study are based on 400 babies, born at least five weeks early and small for their age.

The premature baby charity Bliss has said that the findings of this study will help planning the feeding practices.

It is worth mentioning that High-risk premature babies are susceptible to severe bowel problems that include a condition called necrotising enterocolitis (NEC). In order to tackle this risk, special care units previously used to delay the start of milk feeds.

But tube feeding had its own drawbacks, as it caused complications, including liver problems.

The researchers behind this study, which was funded by the charity Action Medical Research, wanted to examine if underweight premature babies could take milk earlier, which would then help them gain a healthy weight sooner.

The study was co-ordinated by the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford, and carried out at 54 hospitals across UK and Ireland.

Nearly half of the babies on whom trial was conducted needed some help with their breathing, although really sick babies were excluded from the trial.

Half of the babies on whom trial was conducted were given milk feeds on second day of life, while the rest were introduced to milk on day six.

Three quarters among them were administered with their mother's breast milk, rather than donor milk or formula.

"Earlier discharge home not only frees up cot space but also means that the whole family can benefit as the emotional and financial stresses will be reduced," Jane Abbott, fro Bliss has been quoted as saying in the BBC

The researcher also observed that the full feeding - defined as babies successfully taking milk feeds for 72 hours - was gain faster in the babies who were given milk feeds on day second.

It was observed that generally babies who were given milk feeds on second day of life were being fully milk fed by 18 days of age. Those who started on day six became able to do so, on an average of 21 days.

The early milk feed group spent an average of 11 days in high-dependency cots, this duration was 15 days in the late fed group.

Essentially, there was no statistically important difference in the number of babies going through measure bowel problems, including NEC.

In the group given early feeds, 36 (18 percent developed NEC, compared with 30 (15 percent of those who started later.

Alison Leaf and Peter Brocklehurst and their team of the authors say that babies "would generally benefit from starting milk feeds within the first 24-48 hours after birth".

"These babies are a challenge to feed. Good nutrition and growth is very important, however their body organs, including the bowel, are immature," Leaf has been quoted as saying.

--with inputs from ANI

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