Women who undergo a premature delivery have higher content of macro nutrients such as protein, fat and carbohydrates in their milk than women who give birth after week 37, according a new study.
The milk partly compensates because the baby is not fully developed and also protects the infant by ensuring healthy colonisation of beneficial bacteria in the intestine.
Previous research has demonstrated that breast milk from women who give birth prematurely is different from breast milk from women who give birth to full-term babies.
Now, new research shows that breast milk from women who give premature birth does not only have a different composition of macro nutrients; the composition of micro nutrients (metabolites) also differs.
“Breast milk is the best example of customised food that the infant gets the exact nutrition that it needs. Therefore, the question is if nature has incorporated a kind of compensation in order to ensure an optimum nutrition for the pre-term infant,” said Ulrik Kramer Sundekilde, researcher, Aarhus University in a statement.
The scientists achieved the results by analysing the metabolite content of milk samples from 45 women during a period of up to 14 weeks after giving birth.
However, the new examination also demonstrates that a few weeks after birth the composition of the milk is identical to the one available to full-term babies. If a woman gives birth in week 25 she will, as early as week 30, produce milk similar to the milk produced for a full-term baby.
“We do not yet know the nutritional importance of all metabolites, and as premature infants have other and more specialised nutritional needs it may constitute a challenge that they are actually fed milk that they are not yet fully developed to digest. Particularly during a period that is extremely important for their future growth and development,” added Sundekilde.