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JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2012 May;36(3):349-53. doi: 10.1177/0148607111414026. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

Visual development of human milk-fed preterm infants provided with extra energy and nutrients after hospital discharge.

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Physiology and Experimental Medicine Program, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada.



Human milk (HM) is the optimal way to nourish preterm low birth weight (LBW) infants after hospital discharge. However, there are few data on which to assess whether HM alone is sufficient to address hospital-acquired nutrition deficits, and no adequately powered studies have examined this question using neurodevelopment as an outcome. The purpose of this work was to determine whether adding extra energy and nutrients to the feedings of predominantly HM-fed LBW infants early after discharge improves their visual development. Visual development was used in this study as a surrogate marker for neurodevelopment.


At discharge, 39 predominantly HM-fed LBW infants (750-1800 g, 1288 ± 288 g) were randomized to receive human milk alone (control) or around half of the HM received daily mixed with a multinutrient fortifier (intervention) for 12 weeks. Grating acuity (ie, visual acuity) and contrast sensitivity were assessed using sweep visual-evoked potential tests at 4 and 6 months corrected age.


At 4 and 6 months corrected age, intervention infants demonstrated higher grating acuity compared to those in the control group (intervention: 7.8 ± 1.3 and 9.7 ± 1.2 [cycles/degree] vs control 6.9 ± 1.2 and 8.2 ± 1.3, P = .02). Differences in contrast sensitivity did not reach statistical significance (P = .11).


Adding a multinutrient fortifier to a portion of the expressed breast milk provided to predominantly HM-fed LBW infants early after discharge improves their early visual development. Whether these subtle differences in visual development apply to other aspects of development or longer term neurodevelopment are worthy of future investigation.

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