Does human milk reduce infection rates in preterm infants

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The advantage of human milk (HM) in preventing infection in preterm, very low birth weight (VLBW) infants is not proven by the existing studies. Recommendations have been made regarding the methodology required for further study of this important topic.

It has been believed that HM provides advantageous effects for infants, including providing a degree of protection from infection. Given the importance of adequate nutrition for infants, as well as the difficulties associated with providing HM to all infants, it is key that the outcomes of HM feeding practices are clearly known. This review aimed to assess all publications concerned with human milk feeding and infection VLBW preterm infants. Nine studies were included in the review, assessed according to specific, predefined criteria. Poor quality and other methodological issues were noted. Results showed that statistically, most cohort studies showed bias in favour of HM groups in terms of higher maternal socio-demographic variables. HM had a protective effect in reducing infection when compared with formula milk in the conclusions from all nine studies. The results are not considered concrete, given the methodological instability and were interpreted with caution.

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