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April 1977

Feeding the Premature Infant: Human Milk or an Artificial Formula?

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pediatrics, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Babies Hospital, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York.

Am J Dis Child. 1977;131(4):468-469. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1977.02120170094019

Prior to 1940, premature infants, if fed, were usually fed with human milk. However, in the mid-1940s Gordon and Levine1 showed that weight gain was greater in infants fed higher protein formulas than in those fed human milk; subsequently, high protein formulas became the usual feeding for premature infants in most nurseries. Nonetheless, some insisted that the greater weight gain observed by Gordon and Levine was due, at least in part, to the increased electrolyte and mineral (ash) intake that inevitably accompanied a higher protein intake.2.3 This contention was not proved until 1972 when Kagan et al4 demonstrated that infants fed formulas of varying protein and ash content between 7 and 28 days of life had similar increases in total dry weight and that infants who received higher ash intakes retained more water.

Even prior to this demonstration, it was widely observed that infants who received protein