Benefits of human milk in preterm infant feeding

Enrico Bertino, Paola Di Nicola, Francesca Giuliani, Chiara Peila, Elena Cester, Cristina Vassia, Alice Pirra, Paola Tonetto, Alessandra Coscia


Mother’s own milk is widely recognized as the optimal feeding not only for term but also for preterm infants. Evidence documents short and long-term metabolic, immunologic and neurodevelopmental advantages of breastfeeding when compared to formula. Moreover benefits of breastfeeding on psychological and relational aspects have to be considered.

In order to meet the unique nutritional requirements of preterm infants and preserve the singular benefit of breastfeeding, human milk should be fortified to allow adequate growth and bone mineralization. Best fortification models are still object of research, in order to obtain a balance between the risk of undernutrition and the metabolic risks of a too rapid catch-up growth.

When mother milk is unavailable or in short supply, donor milk (DM) represents the second best alternative and although some nutritional elements are inactivated by the pasteurization process, it still has documented advantages compared to formula. The demonstrated benefits of human milk (HM) highlight the importance of health care professional education in the support of breastfeeding.


human milk; preterm infants; fortification; donor milk

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