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Study Finds Human Milk Products Do Not Affect Preterm Infant Microbiome

Feeding preterm infants with human milk-derived products to supplement their mother's own milk does not have any negative impacts on the children's microbiomes, according to a study appearing this week in JAMA Network Open. While providing a preterm newborn with mother's breast milk is associated with lower rates of morbidities, oftentimes a shortfall in this milk supply necessitates the use of either bovine formula or pasteurized donor human milk (DHM). The effect of using an exclusive human milk diet in preterm infants, however, is unclear. A team led by researchers from the Newcastle University conducted a randomized clinical trial conducted at four neonatal intensive care units in the UK, comparing the microbiomes of preterm infants who received either an exclusive human milk diet or those who were provided a combination of mother's milk and bovine milk products. They find no significant differences in measures of gut microbial diversity in the two groups of infants, nor differences in the children's clinical outcomes. "These findings suggest that the clinical impact of human milk-derived products is not modulated via microbiomic mechanisms," the study's authors conclude.