New Research Reveals Breast Is Best For Premature Babies’ Hearts

Research has revealed that breastfeeding can help premature babies’ hearts grow [Photo: Rex Features]

A new study has revealed that breast is best when it comes to building stronger hearts in babies born prematurely.

In the UK 100,000 babies arrive pre-term every year. Their hearts often have smaller chambers, thicker walls and reduced strength compared to those born at full-term, so scientists at Oxford University wanted to find out if breastfeeding made a difference to development.

The research followed 100 infants who were born pre-term but were now aged in their 20s and whose feeding regimes were documented from birth.

The study found the reduced function was considerably less in premature babies fed exclusively on breast milk than in those given formula.

Those who had been breastfed had ventricles – the large chambers in the heart – which were nearly 10 per cent larger than bottle-fed babies. Experts also found the hearts of breastfed babies also beat more strongly.

Prem babies who were breastfed had bigger heart ventricles in adulthood [Photo: Rex Features]

Even babies fed a mix of both breast milk and formula had better heart structure and function as adults.

Dr Adam Lewandowski, who led the study, said of the findings: “Even the best baby formula lacks some of the growth factors, enzymes and antibodies that breast milk provides developing babies.”

“These results show even in people whose premature birth has inevitably affected their development, breastfeeding may improve heart development,” he added.

The findings, out today, appear in the journal Pediatrics.

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