BALTIMORE — A daily fluid intake that is at least 50% breast milk during the first month had a positive relationship with total brain tissue and cortical surface area among premature infants, according to data presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting.
“Changes in brain volume and cortical surface area may be related to intelligence, attention or emotional regulation later in life,” Cynthia Rogers, MD, of the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, said in a press release. “So we would hypothesize that the larger volumes and cortical surface areas we observed may suggest better development outcomes later in life.”
To characterize the effects of breast milk consumption in the first 28 days of life on total brain tissue volume and cortical surface area among very preterm infants at term equivalent postmenstrual age, Rogers and colleagues obtained data from 77 preterm infants in the NICU. Mean gestational age at birth was 26.8 weeks, with a range of 23 to 32 weeks. The researchers defined days on breast milk as days in which the infant received at least 50% of their total fluid intake from breast milk.
Neonates underwent nonsedated MRI at 37.5 weeks postmenstrual age, and total brain tissue volume and cortical surface area were generated using Advanced Normalization Tools and Caret software, respectively. The researchers analyzed data using linear regressions, adjusting for gestational age, postmenstrual age at scan, sex and social risk variables.
According to the researchers, there was a significant positive relationship between breast milk consumption and total cortical surface area (P = .011) and total brain tissue volume (P = .024).
“We will need to continue studying these children, though, to understand whether the effects of breast milk on the brain really have an impact on cognitive function as the very preterm children grow,” Rogers concluded. – by Jason Laday
Disclosure: Healio Family Medicine was unable to confirm the researchers’ relevant financial disclosures.
Rogers C, et al. Effects of breast milk consumption in the first month of life on early brain development in preterm infants. Presented at: Pediatric Academic Societies meeting; April 30 to May 3, 2016; Baltimore.