How Human Milk Improves Outcomes

June 2015

In the neonatal intensive care unit, the needs for protective benefits of human milk is perhaps more evident than anywhere else. Human milk is considered to be a crucial medication to protect premature infants from serious complications and to help them grow.

The Cost of Prematurity: More Than $26 Billion Annually

Higher doses of human milk can help NICU professionals achieve better outcomes for their vulnerable patients. Research shows a clear dose-response effect between the dose of human milk and a reduction in risk for several disabling morbidities. This reduction in risk potentially translates into lower health care costs. When it comes to getting human milk to your patients, every drop counts.

Better Health Outcomes

In the NICU, the need for the protective benefits of human milk is clear. Consider these important benefits of human milk for at-risk infants:

Colostrum Provides Greater Protection

Preterm colostrum is unique. It has higher concentrations of protein, anti-infectives, anti-inflammatories, growth factors and other protective substances than term colostrum or mature preterm milk.1-10

Protective Bacteria are Passed Directly to the Infant

Human milk feedings yield a greater concentration of protective bacteria in the infant’s intestinal tract than commercial formula. Studies show that protective bacteria from the mother’s gastrointestinal tract “translocate” to her breast milk where they are passed directly to the infant.11-17

chart- composition term and preterm human milk

Improve Outcomes

Higher Suppression of Inflammatory Process in the Intestinal Tract

Protective bacteria, along with other human milk components, help suppress inflammatory processes that originate in the infant’s intestinal tract. Inflammation can act locally and predispose the infant to necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Inflammation can also spread to distal organs, increasing the risk of chronic lung disease (CLD), retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) and adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes.11-17

Better Neurodevelopmental Outcomes and Reduced Risk of Rehospitalization

Higher amounts of human milk over the NICU stay are linked to better neurodevelopmental outcomes and a lower risk of rehospitalization in extremely low birth weight (ELBW; < 1000g) infants at 18 and 30 months of corrected age in a dose-response manner.18-20

Lower Risks of NEC, Late Onset Sepsis, and Enteral Feed Intolerance

Other studies suggest that higher amounts of human milk during the early NICU stay lower the risks for NEC, late onset sepsis and enteral feed intolerance in a dose-response manner.21-26

Late onset sepsis costs NICU

The Medela Mother’s Milk Support System

The Medela Mother’s Milk Support System helps you deliver more milk to your vulnerable patients every step of the way. Our system will help you:

  • improve outcomes
  • reduce costs
  • improve patient satisfaction

Medela is committed to human milk science, education, product quality and safety, as well as technological advancement to increase the use of human milk in NICUs and hospitals worldwide. This commitment has led us to develop the industry’s most comprehensive human milk delivery system, which includes milk collection, storage, and delivery options, including transitional feeding and enteral feeding.


Learn more about Medela’s Neonatal Solutions for human milk delivery, including the Medela Enteral Feeding Pump, Milk Warming and Enteral Feeding Solutions for the NICU: click here

Learn more about Medela professional breastfeeding solutions: click here



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