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News From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
July 23/30, 2019

Breast Milk for Preemies

JAMA. 2019;322(4):297. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.10106

Although 83.9% of all US infants receive breast milk within the first few days of life, this rate is about 7% to 13% lower among premature infants despite the many benefits of breast milk, a CDC report found.

Breast milk helps reduce the risk of sepsis and necrotizing enterocolitis and improves neurological development among preterm infants. To assess breast milk feeding rates in this population, the authors analyzed 2017 birth certificate data from 48 states and the District of Columbia. They found that 84.6% of full-term infants received breast milk in the first days of life. Among extremely preterm (20 to 27 weeks’ gestation), early preterm (28 to 33 weeks’ gestation), and late preterm (34 to 36 weeks’ gestation) infants, this rate was only 71.3%, 76%, and 77.3%, respectively. There was also evidence of socioeconomic disparities. Rates were particularly low among preemies born to mothers who were black (67.1%) or American Indian/Alaska Native (60.7%). Preterm infants of mothers who were younger, less educated, receiving Medicaid, or receiving supplemental nutrition assistance were also less likely to receive breast milk.