BACKGROUND: Breast milk feedings are the optimal feeding choice for premature infants. Clinicians depend on accurate nutrient profiles of the breast milk in order to make informed decisions regarding the need for nutrient supplementation. Existing data for nutrient composition of preterm breast milk are dated and not representative of the current population of women delivering prematurely in the United States.
OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this prospective, longitudinal, single-center observational study was to measure the macronutrient and micronutrient composition of breast milk expressed by mothers, including women who self-identify as black, delivering preterm infants at ≤33 completed weeks of gestation.
METHODS: We collected breast milk samples from mothers of preterm infants admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit at Augusta University Medical Center from January 2019 through November 2019. Mother's milk samples were collected on postpartum days 7, 14, 21, and 28 and analyzed for macronutrients (energy, fat, protein, and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin D, and zinc).
RESULTS: Thirty-eight mothers, mean age 27 ± 5.1 y and majority black (66%), provided milk for the study. The mean estimated gestational age and birth weight were 28.2 ± 2.8 weeks of gestation and 1098 ± 347 g, respectively, with 42% of mothers in the cohort delivering before week 28 of pregnancy. Differences in protein, sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc concentrations based on race, day, and milk volume were identified. Dilution effects for protein, sodium, chloride, and vitamin D concentrations over time were identified.
CONCLUSIONS: Our study is among the first to characterize breast milk composition from women who delivered extremely preterm infants and adds to the evidence that race, gestational age, and volume influence the composition of preterm mother's milk. These factors should be considered when designing mother's milk-based feeds for premature infants.