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Human Milk in the Feeding of Preterm Infants: Established and Debated Aspects

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In the last few decades, human milk has been identified as the normative standard for preterm infant feeding and nutrition by the health authorities and scientific societies. In these infants, human milk has been proven to to confer protection against necrotizing enterocolitis, sepsis, and other infections, ...

In the last few decades, human milk has been identified as the normative standard for preterm infant feeding and nutrition by the health authorities and scientific societies. In these infants, human milk has been proven to to confer protection against necrotizing enterocolitis, sepsis, and other infections, as well as against bronchopulmonary dysplasia and severe retinopathy. It has also been shown to decrease the risk of death and improve long-term neurocognitive development and cardiovascular health outcomes. In addition, the benefits of breastfeeding in psychological health and relational aspects must be considered. Because of the extremely high nutritional requirements of premature infants, however, human milk must be fortified with nutrients, particularly protein and minerals, to ensure optimal nutrient intake. Best fortification strategies as well as the optimal composition of fortifiers are still open to research in order to improve the outcomes of these tiny babies.

The mother’s own milk is the first choice for premature infant feeding. When the mother’s own milk is not available or is insufficient, donor human milk from a human milk bank represents the best alternative, with well-documented advantages compared with formulas derived from bovine milk.

Processing human milk in human milk banks may influence the quality of the milk. Holder pasteurization (62.5°C for 30 minutes) is the procedure recommended by all human milk banks, but high-temperature short-time pasteurization (72°C for 5-15 seconds) seems the most promising among the new methodologies under evaluation.

The main purpose of this Research Topic in Frontiers in Pediatrics is to collect papers suitable to improve the sharing of knowledge on human milk and its composition, to advance medical and scientific research in the further investigation of human milk, and to improve technological advances and good practices in milk banks in order to provide preterm infants with donor human milk of better nutritional and immunological quality.


Keywords: Breastfeeding, human milk, donor human milk, human milk banks, preterm infant feeding


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